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London: Priuted by C.Roworth, 
^^^__BeU-yard, Temple-bar. 




Chap. I. Of the Territory, Origin, and various Names 
of the Abipones . Pam 1 

II. Of the natural Colour of the Americans . . 8 

III. Of the Persons of the Abipones, and the Con- 

formation of their Bodies 12 

IV. Of the ancient and universal Methods of disfiguring 

the Person ...» jg 

V. Of the Perforation of the Lips and Ears of the 

Savages 24 

VI. Of the Strength and Longevity of the i\bipones 31 

VII. Why the Abipones are so vigorous and long- 

lived 4j 

VIII. Of the Religion of the Abipones .... 57 

IX. Of the Conjurors, or rather of the Jugglers and 

Cheats of the Abipones ...... 67 

X. Conjectures why the Abipones take the Evil Spirit 

for their Grandfather, and the Pleiades for the Re- 
presentation of him 88 

XL Of the Division of the Abiponian Nation, of their 
Paucity, and of the chief causes thereof . . 95 

a 2 


XII. Of the Magistrates, Captains, Caciques, &c. of the 

Abipones, and of their Forms of Government 100 

XIII. Of the Food, Journeys, and other particulars of 
the Economy of the Abipones 1 10 

XIV. Of the Form and Materials of Clothing, and of 
the Fabric of other Utensils 1^7 

XV. Of the Manners and Customs of the Abipones 136 

XVI. Of the Language of the Abipones . . . 157 

XVII. Concerning other Peculiarities of the Abiponian 
' Tongue 183 

XVIII. Of the Weddings of the Abipones . . .207 

XIX. Of the Marriage of the Abipones . . .210 

XX. Games on the Birth of the Male Child of a 

Cacique 216 

XXI. Of the Diseases, Physicians, and Medicines of 
the Abipones 219 

XXII. Of a certain Disease peculiar to the Abi- 
pones . . . . : 233 

XXIII. Of Measles, Small-Pox, and the Murrain 
in Cattle 238 

XXIV. Of the Physicians and Medicines of the Abi- 
pones ............ 248 

XXV. Of the Rites which accompany and succeed the 
Death of an Abipon 265 

XXVI. Of the Mourning, the Exequies, and Funeral 
Ceremonies of the Abipones . . . . . 273 

XXVII. Of the customary Removal of the Bones 281 

XXVIII. Of the more remarkable Serpents . . 286 

XXIX. More on the same Subject; and respecting 
other Insects . . . . ... . . . 295 

XXX. Of Remedies for the poisonous Bites of In- 
sects 303 


XXXI. Of other noxious Insects, and their Reme- 
dies . .312 

XXXII. Continuation of the same Subject . . 324 

XXXIII. Of the Military Dispositions of the Abi- 
pones - 347 

XXXIV. Of the Arms of the Abipones . - .352 

XXXV. Of the Scouts, and War Councils of the Abi- 
pones 363 

XXXVI. Of the hostile Expeditions, Provisions, and 
Camps of the Abipones 369 

XXXVII. Of the Assault, and the Measures preced- 
ing it 375 

XXXVIII. By what Means the Abipones render 
themselves formidable, and when they are justly 
to be dreaded 335 

XXXIX. Of those who go under the Name of Spanish 
Soldiers in Paraguay 395 

XL. What is the Fate of the Slain amongst the Abi- 

ponian Victors 408 

XLI.- Concerning the Arms of the Abipones, and their 

Battle Array in fighting with other Savages 413 
XLII. Of the Anniversary Memorial of Victories, and 

the Rites of a public Drinking-Party . . 428 
XLIII. Of the Abiponian Rites on occasion of any 

one's being declared Captain 440 

'fg!^^!'*?!" " ' ' ' -"ly "i Al '.. mmif: iUUiJmru^Lt!L^ ^.7:s!ms»: 








The Abipones inhabit the province Chaco, the 
centre of all Paraguay; they have no fixed 
abodes, nor any boundaries, except what fear of 
their neighbours has established. They roam 
extensively in every direction, whenever the 
opportunity of attacking their enemies, or the 
necessity of avoiding them renders a journey 
advisable. The northern shore of the Rio 
Grande or Bermejo, which the Indians call 
Inat^, was their native land in the last century. 
Thence they removed, to avoid the war carried 
on against Chaco by the Spaniards of Salta, 
at the commencement of this century, and mi- 
grating towards the south, took possession of a 




valley formerly held by the Calchaquis. This 
territory, which is about two hundred leagues 
in extent, they at present occupy. But from 
what region their ancestors came there is no 
room for conjecture. Ychamenraikin, chief 
cacique of the Abipones in the town of St. Je- 
ronymo, told us, that, after crossing the vast 
waters, they were carried hither on an ass, and 
this he declared he had heard from ancient men.'^ 
I have often thought that the Americans origi- 
nally came, step by step, from the most nor- 
thern parts of Europe, which are perhaps joined 
to America, or separated only by a narrow frith. 
We have observed some resemblance in the 
manners and customs of the Abipones to the 
Laplanders, and people of Nova Zembla, and we 
always noticed in these savages a magnetical 
propensity to the north, as if they inclined to- 
wards their native soil ; for when irritated by 
any untoward event, they cried in a threatening 
tone— Mahaik quer ereegem, I will go to the 
north; though this threat meant that they 
would return to the northern parts of Paraguay, 
where their savage compatriots live at this day, 
free from the yoke of the Spaniards, and from 
Christian discipline. 

But if the Americans sprung from the north of 
Europe, why are all the Indians of both Americas 
destitute of beard, in which the northern Eu- 


ropeans abound ? Do not ascribe that to air, cli- 
mate, and country, for though we see some plants 
brought from Europe to America degenerate in a 
short time, yet we find that Spaniards, Portu- 
gueze, Germans, and Frenchmen, who in Europe 
are endowed with plenty of beard, never lose it in 
any part of America, but that their children and 
grandchildren plainly testify their European ori- 
gin by their beard. If you see any Indian with 
a middling-sized beard, you may be sure that 
his father or grandfather was an European ; for 
those thinly-scattered hairs, growing here and 
there upon the chins of the Indians both of 
North and South America, are unworthy the 
name of beard. 

Paraguay is indeed near Africa, yet who 
would say that the inhabitants migrated from 
thence ? In that case, the Paraguayrians would 
be of a black, or at any rate of a dusky leaden 
colour, like the Africans. The English, Spa- 
niards, and Portugueze know that if both parents 
be Negroes, the children, in whatever country 
they are -born, will be black, but that the off- 
spring of a male and female Indian are of a 
whitish colour, which somewhat darkens as they 
grow older, from the heat of the sun, and the 
smoke of the fire, which they keep alive, day 
and night, in their huts. Moreover, the Ame- 
ricans have not woolly hair like the Negroes, but 

B 2 


Straight, though very black locks. The vast 
extent of ocean which divides Africa from the 
southern parts of America, renders a passage 
difficult, and almost incredible, at a time when 
navigators, then unfurnished with the magnet, 
dared scarcely sail out of sight of the shore. 
The Africans, you will say, might have been 
cast by a storm on the shores of America ; but 
how could the wild beasts have got there? Op- 
posite to the shores of Paraguay lies the Cape 
of Good Hope, inhabited by Hottentots which, 
in the savageness of their manners, resemble the 
Paraguayrian Indians, but are totally different 
in the form of their bodies, in their customs,, and 
language. Many may, with more justice, con- 
tend that Asia was the original country of the 
Americans, it being connected with America by 
some hitherto undiscovered tie; and so they may, 
with my free leave ; nor, were I to hear it affirm- 
ed that the Americans fell from the moon, should 
I offer any refutation, but having experienced the 
inconstancy, volubility, and changefulness of the 
Indians, should freely coincide in that opinion. 
The infinite variety of tongues amongst the in- 
numerable nations of America baffles all con- 
jecture in regard to their origin. You cannot 
discover the faintest trace of any European, 
African, or Asiatic language amongst them all. 
However, although I dare not affirm posi- 


tively whence the Abipones formerly came, I 
will at any rate tell you where they now inha- 
bit. That vast extent of country bounded from 
north to south by the Rio Grande, or liiat^, 
and the territories of Sta. F^, and from east to 
west by the shores of the Paraguay, and the 
country of St. lago, is the residence of the Abi- 
pones, who are distributed into various hordes. 
Impatient of agriculture and a fixed home, they 
are continually moving from place to place. 
The opportunity of water and provisions at one 
time, and the necessity of avoiding the approach 
of the enemy at another, obliges them to be 
constantly on tde move. The Abipones imitate 
skilful chess-players. After committing slaugh- 
ter in the southern colonies of the Spaniards, 
they retire far northwards, afflict the city of 
Asumpcion with murders and rapine, and 
then hurry back again to the south. If they 
have acted hostilities against the towns of the 
Guaranies, or the city of Corrientes, they be- 
take themselves to the west. But if the terri- 
tories of St. lago or Cordoba have been the 
objects of their fury, they cunningly conceal 
themselves in the marshes, islands, and reedy 
places of the river Parana. For the Spaniards, 
however desirous, are not able to return the in- 
juries of the saviages, from the difficulty of the 

B 3 



roads, or their want of acquaintance with them. 
-It sometimes happens that a lake or marsh, 
which the Abipones swim with ease, obliges the 
Spanish cavalry to abandon the pursuit. 

The whole territory of the Abipones scarcely 
contains a place which has not received a name 
from some memorable event or peculiarity of 
that neighbourhood. It may be proper to men- 
tion some of the most famous of these places ; 
viz. Netagrancic Lpatage, the bird's nest ; for in 
this place birds resembling storks yearly build 
their nests. Liquinfdnala, the cross, which was 
formerly fixed here by the Spaniards. Nihire- 
nac Leenererquih, the cave of the tiger. Pact 
Lateta, the bruised teats. Atopehhnra Lauate, 
the haunt of capibaris. Lareca Caepa, the high 
trees. Lalegraicavalca, the little white things. 
Hail of enormous size once fell in this place, and 
killed vast numbers of cattle. Many other 
places are named from the rivers that flow past 
them. The most considerable are the Evoray^, 
the Parana, or Paraguay, the liiat^, the Rio 
Grande, or Vermejo, the Ychimaye, or Rio Rey, 
the Neboquelat^l, or mother of palms, called by 
the Spaniards Malabrigo, the Narahage, or 
Inespin, the Lachaoqufe Naue, Ycalc, Ycham, 
&c. the Rio Negro, Verde, Salado, &c. 

In the sixtieth year of the present century, 
many families of Abipones removed, some to the 





When European painters have represented a 
man of a dark complexion, naked and hairy 
from head to foot, with flat distorted nostrils, 
threatening eyes, and a vast belly, a monster, in 
short, armed with a quiver, bow, arrows, and a 
club, and crowned with feathers of various co- 
lours, they think they have made an admirable 
portrait of an American Indian. And, indeed, 
before I saw America, I pit cured the Americans 
to myself as agreeing with this description ; but 
my own eyes soon convinced me of my errop 
and I openly denounced the painters, to whom 
I had formerly given credit, as calumniators 
and romancers. Upon a near view of innu- 
merable Indians of many nations, I could dis- 
cover none of those deformities which are com- 
monly ascribed to them. None of the Ame- 
ricans are black like Negroes, none so white as 
the Germans, English and French, but of this I 
am positive, that many of them are fairer than 
many Spaniards, Portugueze, and Italians. The 
Americans have whitish faces, but this white- 



ness, in some nations, approaches more to a 
pasty colour, and in others is darker; a dif- 
ference occasioned by diversity of climate, man- 
ner of living, or food. For those Indians who 
are exposed to the sun's^ heat in the open plain, 
must necessarily be of a darker colour than 
those vv^ho dwell always in the shade of forests, 
and never behold the sun. The w^omen are 
fairer than the men, because they go out of 
doors less frequently, and whenever they travel 
on horseback, take greater care of their com- 
plexions, skreening their faces with fans made 
of the longer emu feathers. 

I have often wondered that the savage Aucas, 
Puelches or Patagonians, and other inhabitants 
of the Magellanic region, who dwell nearer to 
the South Pole, should be darker than the 
Abipones, Mocobios, Tobas, and other tribes, 
who live in Chaco, about ten degrees farther 
north, and consequently suffer more from the 
heat. May not the difference of food have 
some effect upon the complexion ? The South- 
ern savages feed principally upon the flesh of 
emus and horses, in which the plains abound. 
Does this contribute nothing to render their 
skin dark ? What, if we say that the whiteness 
of the skin is destroyed by very severe cold, as 
well as by extreme heat ? Yet if this be the 
case, why are the inhabitants of Terra del 



Fuego more than moderately white: for that 
island is situated in the fifty-fifth degree of 
latitude, at the very extremity of South Ame- 
rica, hard by the Antarctic Pole ? May we 
not suppose that these Southern nations derive 
their origin from Africa, and brought the dark 
colour of the Africans into America ? If any 
one incline to this opinion, let him consider by 
what means they crossed the immense sea which 
separates Africa from America, without the use 
of the magnet. 

Many have written, and most persons at this 
day believe the Patagonians to be giants, per- 
haps the progeny of the Cyclops Polyphemus ; 
but believe me when I say that the first are 
deceivers, and the latter their dupes. In the 
narrative of the voyage of the Dutch com- 
mander, Oliver Von Nord, who, in the year 
1598, passed the Straits of Magellan, the Pata- 
gonians are asserted to be ten or eleven feet 
high. The English, who passed these straits 
in 1764, gave them eight feet of height. The 
good men must have looked at those savages 
through a magnifying-glass, or measured them 
with a pole. For in the year 1766, Captains 
Wallis and Carteret measured the Patagonians, 
and declared them to be only six feet, or six 
feet six inches high. They were again measur- 
ed in 1764, by the famous Bourgainville, who 



found them to be of the same height as Wallis 
had done. Father Thomas Falconer, many 
years Missionary in the Magellanic region, 
laughs at the idea entertained by Europeans 
of the gigantic stature of the Patagonians, in- 
stancing Kangapol chief Cacique of that land, 
who exceeded all the other Patagonians in 
stature, and yet did not appear to him to be 
above seven feet high. Soon after my arrival, 
I saw a great number of these savages in the 
city of Buenos-Ayres. I did not, indeed, mea- 
sure them, but spoke to some of them by an 
interpreter, and though most of them were re- 
markably tall, yet they by no means deserved 
the name of giants. 





The Abipones are well formed, and have hand- 
some faces, much like those of Europeans, ex- 
cept in point of colour, which, though not 
entirely white, has nothing of the blackness of 
Negroes and Mulattoes. For that natural white- 
ness which they have in infancy is somewhat 
destroyed as they grow up, by the sun, and by 
the smoke : as nearly the whole of their lives is 
passed in riding about plains exposed to the 
beams of the sun, and the short time that they 
spend in their tents, they keep up a fire on the 
ground day and night, by the heat and smoke 
of which they are unavoidably somewhat dark- 
ened. Whenever the cold south wind blows, 
they move the fire to the bed, or place it under- 
neath the hanging net in which they lie, and 
are thus gradually smoke-dried, like a gammon 
of bacon in a chimney. The women, when they 
ride out into the country, shield their faces from 
the sun's rays with an umbrella, and are, in 
consequence, generally fairer than the men, 
who, more ambitious to be dreaded by their 



enemies than to be loved, to terrify than attract 
beholders, think the more they are scarred and 
sun-burnt, the handsomer they are. 

I observed that almost all the Abipones had 
black but rather small eyes ; yet they see more 
acutely with them, than we do with our larger 
ones; being able clearly to distinguish such 
minute, or distant objects as would escape the 
eye of the most quick-sighted European. Fre- 
quently, in travelling, when we saw some ani- 
mal running at a distance, and were unable to 
distinguish what it was, an Abipon would 
declare, without hesitation, whether it was a 
horse or a mule, and whether the colour was 
black, white, or grey ; and on examining the 
object more closely, we always found him 

Moreover, in symmetry of shape, the Abi- 
pones yield to no other nation of America. I 
scarce remember to have seen one of them with 
a nose like what we see in the generality of 
Negrods, flat, crooked, turned up towards the 
forehead, or broader than it should be. The 
commonest shape is aquiline ; as long and sharp 
as is consistent with beauty. An hundred de- 
formities and blemishes, common among Euro- 
peans, are foreign to them. You never see an 
Abipon with a hump on his back, a wen, a hare 
lip, a monstrous belly, bandy legs, club feet, or 



an impediment in his speech. They have white 
teeth, almost all of which they generally carry 
to the grave quite sound. Paraguay sometimes 
produces dwarf horses, but never a dwarf Abi- 
pon, or any other Indian. Certain it is, that" 
out of so many thousands of Indians, I never 
saw an individual of that description. Almost 
all the Abipones are so tall, that they might be 
enlisted amongst the Austrian musketeers. 

The Abipones, as I told you before, are des- 
titute of beard, and have perfectly smooth chins 
like all the other Indians, both of whose parents 
are Americans. If you see an Indian with a 
little beard, you may conclude, without hesi- 
tation, that one of his parents, or at any rate his 
grandfather, must have been of European ex- 
traction. I do not deny that a kind of down 
grows on the chins of the Americans, just as in 
sandy sterile fields, a straggling ear of corn is 
seen here and there ; but even this they pull up 
by the roots whenever it grows. The office of 
barber is performed by an old woman, who sits 
on the ground by the fire, takes the head of the 
Abipon into her lap, sprinkles and rubs his face 
plentifully with hot ashes, which serve instead of 
soap, and then, with a pair of elastic horn twee- 
zers, carefully plucks up all the hairs; which 
operation the savages declare to be devoid of 
pain, and that I might give the more credit to his 




words, one of them, applying a forceps to my 
chin, wanted to give me palpable demonstration 
of the truth. It was with difficulty that I ex- 
tricated myself from the hands of the unlucky 
shaver, choosing rather to believe than groan. 

The Abipones bear the pain inflicted by the 
old woman with the forceps, without complain- 
ing, that their faces may be smooth and clear ; 
for they cannot endure them to be rough and 
hairy. For this reason, neither sex will suffer 
the hairs, with which our eyes are naturally 
fortified, but have their eye-brows and eye- 
lashes continually plucked up. This naked- 
ness of the eyes, though it disfigures the hand- 
somest face in a high degree, they deem in- 
dispensable to beauty. They ridicule and 
despise the Europeans for the thick brows 
which overshadow their eyes, and call them 
brothers to the ostriches, who have very thick 
eye-brows. They imagine that the sight of 
the eye is deadened, and shaded by the ad- 
jacent hairs. Whenever they go out to seek 
honey, and return empty-handed, their constant 
excuse is, that their eye-brows and eye-lashes 
have grown, and prevented them from seeing 
the bees which conduct them to the hives. 
From the beard, let us proceed to the hair of 

the head. 

All the Abipones have thick, raven-black 



locks; a child born with red or flaxen hair 
would be looked upon as a monster amongst 
them. The manner of dressing the hair differs 
in different nations, times, and conditions. The 
Abipones, previously to their entering colonies, 
shaved their hair like monks, leaving nothing 
but a circle of hair round the head. But the 
women of the Mbaya nation, after shaving the 
rest of their heads, leave some hairs untouched, 
to grow like the crest of a helmet, from the 
forehead to the crown. As the savages have 
neither razors nor scissars, they use a shell 
sharpened against a stone, or the jaws of the 
fish palometa, for the purpose of shaving. Most 
of the Abipones in our colonies let their hair 
grow long, and twist it into a rope like Euro- 
pean soldiers. The same fashion was adopted 
by the women, but with this difference, that 
they tie the braid of hair with a little piece of 
white cotton, as our countrymen do with black. 
- At church, and in mournings for the dead, 
they scatter their hair about their shoulders. 
The Guarany Indians, on the contrary, whilst 
they live in the woods, without the knowledge 
of religion, let their hair hang down their backs : 
now that they have embraced Christianity, and 
entered various colonies, they crop it like 
priests. But the women of the Guarany towns 
wear their hair long, platted, and bound with a 



piece of white cotton, both in and out of doors, 
but dishevelled and flowing when they attend 
divine service. The Spanish peasantry also 
approach the door of the church with their hair 
tied in the military fashion, but loosen it on 
entering. Indeed, all the Americans are per- 
suaded that this is a mark of reverence due to 
the sacred edifice. 

As soon as they wake in the morning, the 
Abiponian women, sitting on the ground, dress, 
twist, and tie their husbands' hair. A bundle 
of boar's bristles, or of hairs out of a tamandua's 
tail, serves them for a comb. You very seldom 
see an Indian with natural, never with artificial 
curling hair. They do not grow grey till very 
late, and then not unless they are decrepid; 
very few of them get bald. It is worth while 
to mention a ridiculous custom of the Abipones, 
Mocobios, Tobas, &c. all of whom, without dis- 
tinction of age or sex, pluck up the hair from 
the forehead to the crown of the head, so that 
the fore part of the head is bald almost for the 
space of two inches : this baldness they call 
nalem^a, and account a religious mark of their 
nation. New-born infants have the hair of 
the fore part of their head cut ofi'by a male or 
female juggler, these knaves performing the 
offices both of physicians and priests amongst 
them. This custom seems to me to have 

VOL. II. o 




been derived from the Peruvian Indians, who 
used to cut their children's first hair, at two 
years of age, with a sharp stone for want of a 
knife. The ceremony was performed by the 
relations, one after another, according to the 
degrees of consanguinity; and at the same time 
a name was given to the infant. 

It is also a custom, amongst the Abipones, to 
shave the heads of widows, not without much 
lamentation on the part of the women, and 
drinking on that of the men ; and to cover them 
with a grey and black hood, made of the threads 
of the caraquat^, which it is reckoned a crime 
for her to take off till she marries again. A 
widower has his hair cropped with many cere- 
monies, and his head covered with a little net- 
shaped hat, which is not taken off till the hair 
grows again. All the men cut off their hair to 
mourn for the death of a Cacique. Amongst 
the Christian Guaranies, it is thought a most 
shameful and ignominious punishment, when 
any disreputable woman has her hair cut off. 
I have described the person which liberal na- 
ture has bestowed upon the Abipones ; it now 
remains for me to show by what means they 
disfigure it. 





Many Europeans spoil their beauty by eager- 
ly imitating foreign customs, and always seek- 
ing new methods of adorning their persons. 
The Abipones disfigure and render themselves 
terrible to the sight from a too great attachment 
to the old customs of their ancestors ; by whose 
* example they mark their faces in various ways, 
some of which are common to both sexes,' 
others peculiar to the women. They prick their 
skin with a sharp thorn, and scatter fresh ashes 
on the wound, which infuse an ineffaceable black 
dye. They all wear the form of a cross im- 
pressed on their foreheads, and two small lines 
at the corner of each eye extending towards the 
ears, besides four transverse lines at the root 
of the nose between the eye-brows, as national 
marks. These figures the old women prick with 
thorns, not only in the skin, but in the live flesh, 
and ashes sprinkled on them whilst streaming 
with blood render them of an indelible black. 
What these figures signify, and what they por- 
tend I cannot tell, and the Abipones themselves 

c 2 






are no better informed on the subject. They 
only know that this custom was handed down 
to them from their ancestors, and that is suffi- 

I saw not only a cross marked on the fore- 
heads of all the Abipones, but likewise black 
crosses woven in the red woollen garments of 
many. It is a very surprizing circumstance that 
they did this before they were acquainted with 
the religion of Christ, when the signification 
and merits of the cross were unknown to them. 
Perhaps they learnt some veneration for the 
cross, or gained an idea of its possessing great 
virtues from their Spanish captives, or from ' 
those Abipones who had lived in captivity 
amongst the Spaniards. 

The Abiponian women, not content with the 
marks common to both sexes, have their face, 
breast, and arms covered with black figures of 
various shapes, so that they present the appear- 
ance of a Turkish carpet. The higher their 
rank, and the greater their beauty, the more 
figures they have ; but this savage ornament is 
purchased with much blood and many groans. 
As soon as a young woman is of age to be mar- 
ried she is ordered to be marked according to 
custom. She reclines her head upon the lap of 
an old woman, and is pricked in order to be 
beautified. Thorns are used for a pencil, and 



ashes mixed with blood for paint. The ingeni- 
ous, but cruel old woman, sticking the points of 
the thorns deep into the flesh, describes various 
figures till the whole face streams with blood. 
If the wretched girl does but groan, or draw 
her face away, she is loaded with reproaches, 
taunts and abuse. " No more of such coward- 
ice," exclaims the old woman in a rage, " you 
are a disgrace to our nation, since a little tick- 
ling with thorns is so intolerable to you ! Do 
you not know that you are descended from 
those who glory and delight in wounds ? For 
shame of yourself, you faint-hearted creature! 
You seem to be softer than cotton. You will die 
single, be assured. Which of our heroes would 
think so cowardly a girl worthy to be his wife ? 
But if you will only be quiet and tractable, I'll 
make you more beautiful than beauty itself." ' 
Terrified by these vociferations, and fearful of 
becoming the jest and derision of her com- 
panions, the girl does not utter a word, but con- 
ceals the sense of pain in silence, and with a 
cheerful countenance, and lips unclosed through 
dread of reproach, endures the torture of the 
thorns, which is not finished in one day. The 
first day she is sent home with her face half 
^pricked with the thorns, and is recalled the next, 
the next after that, and perhaps oftener, to 
have the rest of her face, her breast and arms 





pricked in like manner. Meantime she is shut 
up for several days in her father's tent, and 
wrapped in a hide that she may receive no injury 
from'the cold air. Carefully abstaining from 
meat, fishes, and some other sorts of food, she 
feeds upon nothing but a little fruit which grows 
upon brambles, and, though frequently known to 
produce ague, conduces much towards cooling 

the blood. 

The long fast, together with the daily effusion 
of blood, renders the young girls extremely pale. 
The chin is not dotted like the other parts, but 
pierced with one stroke of the thorn in straight 
lines, upon which musical characters might be 
written. All thorns seem to have a poisonous 
quality, and consequently, from being scratched 
with them, the eyes, cheeks, and lips are horrid- 
ly swelled, and imbibe a deep black from the 
ashes placed on the wounded skin; so that a 
girl, upon leaving the house of that barbarous 
old woman, looks like a Stygian fury, and forces 
you involuntarily to exclaim. Oh! quantum Niohe 
Niobe distabat ab ilia! , The savage parents 
themselves are sometimes moved to pity at the 
sight of her, but never dream of abolishing this 
cruel custom; for they think their daughters are 
ornamented by being thus mangled, and at the 
same time instructed and prepared to bear the 
pains of parturition in future. Though I de- 



tested the hard-heartedness of the old women 
in thus torturing the girls, yet the skill they dis- 
play in the operation always excited my won- 
der. For on both cheeks they form all sorts of 
figures with wondrous proportion, variety, and 
equality of the lines, with the aid of no other 
instrument than thorns of various sizes. Every 
Abiponian woman you see has a different pattern 
on her face. Those that are most painted and 
pricked you may know to be of high rank and 
noble birth, and if you meet a woman with but 
three or four black lines on her face, you may 
be quite certain she is either a captive, or of low 
birth. When Christian discipline was firmly 
established in the Abiponian colonies, this vile 
custom was by our efforts abolished, and the 
women now retain their natural appearance. 

c 4 




> I 



The Abipones, like all the other American 
savages, used formerly to pierce their lower lip 
with a hot iron, or a sharp reed. Into the hole 
some insert a reed and others a small tube of 
bone, glass, gum, or yellow brass ; an ornament 
allowed only to the men when they are seven 
years old, never to the women. This custom 
has long since been abolished amongst the later 
Abipones, but is still continued by the Gua- 
ranies who inhabit the woods, by the Mbayas, 
Guanas, and Payaguas. These people think 
themselves most elegantly adorned when they 
have a brass pipe a span long, and about 
the thickness of a goose's quill, hanging from the 
lip to the breast. But this imaginary ornament 
renders them very formidable to European stran- 
gers ; for they are of great height, their bodies 
are painted with juices of various colours, and 
their hair stained of a blood red ; the wing of a 
vulture is stuck in one of their ears, and strings 
of glass beads hung round their neck, arms, 
knees and legs ; thus accoutred they walk the 

< i 



streets smoking tobacco out of a very long 
reed ; figures in every respect terrible to be- 

The thing v^hich is inserted into the lip, of 
w^hatever material it may be made, is called by 
the Guaranies tembeta, and is universally used by 
them v^hilst they wander about the w^oods with- 
out religion; but after being converted to 
Christianity and settled in colonies they throw 
away this lip appendage. The hole of the lip, 
which neither salve nor plaster will cure, how- 
ever, remains, and in speaking the saliva some- 
times flows profusely through it ; it also impedes 
them a little in pronouncing some words. All 
the plebeian Indians whom I discovered in the 
woods of Mbaevera, both youths and adults, 
used a short slender reed for the tembeta ; but 
that of the three caciques was made of a gold- 
coloured gum or rosin. At first sight I could 
have sworn that it was glass. In the heat of 
the sun that beautiful gum flows plentifully from 
the tree abati timbaby, and falls gradually into 
the models of tembetas, crosses, globes, or any 
other figure they like : exposed to the air it 
grows as hard as a stone, so that no liquid can 
ever melt it, but still retains its glassy trans- 
parency. If this rosin of the tree abati tim- 
baby were not possessed of singular hardness, 
the tembeta made of it, after remaining whole 



f: if 

days in the lip of the savage, and being covered 
with saliva, would soften, and dissolve. 

Do not imagine that there is but one method 
of piercing the lip amongst the savages. The 
anthropophagi do not pierce the lower lip 
but cut it to the length of the mouth in such a 
manner, that when the wound terminates in a 
scar they look as if they had two mouths. They 
wander up and down the woods, and are often, 
but fruitlessly exhorted by the Jesuits, not 
without peril to themselves, to embrace our re- 
ligion. The Indians of Brazil and Paraguay 
formerly delighted in human flesh. Many of 
them, after having been long accustomed to 
Christian discipline in our towns, sometimes 
confessed that the flesh of kine or of any wild 
animal tastes extremely flat and insipid to them, 
in comparison with that of men. We have 
known the Mocobios and Tobas, for want of 
other food, eat human flesh even at this day. 
Some hundreds of the last-mentioned savages 
fell suddenly upon Alaykin, cacique of the Abi- 
pones, about day-break as he was drinking in a 
distant plain with a troop of his followers. An 
obstinate combat was carried on for some time, 
at the end of which the wounded Abipones 
escaped by flight. Alaykin himself and six of 
his fellow-soldiers fell in the engagement, and 
were afterwards roasted and devoured by the 



hungry victors. An Abiponian boy of twelve 
years old, who used to eat at our table, was killed 
at the same time by these savages, and added to 
the repast, being eaten with the rest ; but an 
old Abiponian woman, who had been slain there 
with many wounds, they left on the field un- 
touched, her flesh being too tough to be used. 
Now let me speak a little of the adorning, or, 
more properly, torturing of the ears. 

The use of ear-rings, which is very ancient, 
and varies amongst various nations, is highlyridi- 
culous amongst the Americans. The ears of very 
young children of both sexes are always perfo- 
rated. Few of the men wear ear-rings, but some 
of the older ones insert a small piece of cow's 
horn, wood, or bone, a woollen thread of various 
colours, or a little knot of horn into their ears. 
Almost all the married women have ear-rings, 
made in the following manner. They twist a 
very long palm leaf two inches wide into a spire, 
like a bundle of silk thread, and wider in cir- 
cumference than the larger wafer which we use 
in sacrifice. This roll is gradually pushed far- 
ther and farther into the hole of the ear ; by 
which means in the course of years the skin of 
the ear is so much stretched, and the hole so 
much enlarged, that it folds very tightly round 
the whole of that palm leaf spire, and flows al- 
most down to the shoulders. The palm leaf 




!• 1 i 

itself, when in this spiral form, has an elastic 
power which daily dilates the hole of the ear 
more and more. Do not think that I have 
exaggerated the size of this spire and the capa- 
ciousness of the ear. With these eyes, by the 
aid of which I am now writing, I daily beheld 
innumerable women laden with this monstrous 
ear-ring, and very many men even of other 
nations. For those most barbarous people the 
Oa^kakalotsand Tobas, and other American na- 
tions out of Paraguay, use the same ear-rings as 
the Abiponian women. The Guarany women 
wear brass ear-rings sometimes three inches in 
diameter, not however inserted into the ear, but 
suspended from it. 

The Paraguayrians seem to have learnt the 
various use of ear-rings from Peru. Its famous 
king and legislator, the Inca Manco Capac, per- 
mitted his subjects to perforate their ears, pro- 
vided however that all the ear-holes should be 
smaller than those he himself used. He assign- 
ed various ear-rings to all the people in the 
various provinces : some inserted a bit of wood 
into their ears ; some a piece of white wool not 
bigger than a man's thumb ; others a bulrush ; 
others the bark of a tree. Three nations were 
allowed the privilege of larger ear-rings than 
the rest. All persons of royal descent wore for 
ear-rings very wide rings which were suspended 



by a long band, and hung down to the breast. 
The Paraguayrians, who had at first imitated the 
Peruvians, in course of ages invented still more 
ridiculous ear-rings, none of which a European 
could behold without laughter. 

As the Abipones deprive their eyes of brows 
and lashes, pierce their lips and ears, prick their 
faces with thorns and mark them with figures, 
pluck the down from their chins, and pull up 
a quantity of hair from the fore part of their 
heads, I always greatly wondered at their pre- 
serving the nose untouched and unhurt, the car- 
tilage of which the Africans, Peruvians, and 
Mexicans formerly perforated, sometimes insert- 
ing a string of beads into the hole. According 
to Father Joseph Acosta, book VII. chap. 17, 
Tikorik, king of the Mexicans, wore a fine eme- 
rald suspended from his nostrils. The Brazi- 
lians from their earliest age perforate not the 
lower lip alone but also other parts of the face, 
inserting very long pebbles into the fissures; a 
frightful spectacle, as the Jesuit Maffei afiirms in 
the second book of his History of the Indies. 
You would call the faces of the Brazilians tes- 
selated work or mosaic. But the Parthians 
delighted still more in deforming themselves ; 
for, according to Tertullian, Lib. I., cap. 10. De 
Cultu Foemin. they pierced almost every part 
of their bodies for the admission of pebbles or 



precious stones. If Diodorus Siculus Lib. IV. 
cap. 1. may be credited, the female Negroes 
bordering on Arabia perforated their lips for the 
same purpose. From all this it appears that 
the savages of America are not the only people 
who have adopted the foolish custom of mark- 
ing their bodies in various v^^ays. 





Truly ridiculous are those persons who, with- 
out e^er having beheld America even from a 
distance, have written with more boldness than 
truth that all the Americans, without distinction, 
are possessed of little strength, weakly bodies, 
and bad constitutions, which cannot be said of the 
generality of them. Their habit of body varies 
according to climate, country, food, and occu- 
pation ; as we find those Europeans who breathe 
the healthy mountain air of Styria more robust 
than those who grow sallow with ague in the 
marshy plains of the Bannat. Negro slaves 
brought in ships were often exposed to sale, like 
cattle, in the streets of Lisbon, whilst I was in 
that city. Those from Angola, Congo, Cape de 
Verd, and above all the island of Madagascar are 
eagerly chosen, being generally of strong health 
and superior activity. Africans, natives of that 
country which the Portugueze call Costa de la 
Mina, can scarcely find a purchaser, being gene- 
rally weak, slothful, and impatient of labour, 
because they inhabit nearest to the equator, 
where there is little or no wind, tepid air, and 



frequent rain. In sailing to Paraguay we were 
detained in that neighbourhood by a continu- 
ous calm, and remained stationary there for full 
three weeks, roasted by the heat of the sun, and 
daily washed with warm showers. Who can 
wonder that this languishing climate produces 
languid and weakly bodies, though strong robust 
people are found in other parts of Africa ? From 
this you may know what to think of so exten- 
sive a region as America, and of its inhabitants* 
Its various provinces and even different parts of 
the provinces differ essentially in the properties 
of the air, food, and habitations, which produces 
a variety in the constitutions of the inhabi- 
tants, some being weak, some very strong. 

Let others write of the other Americans to 
whom and what they choose : I shall not con- 
tradict them. Of the Paraguayrians I confi- 
dently affirm that the equestrian nations greatly 
excel the pedestrians in beauty of form, lof- 
tiness of stature, strength, health, and longevity. 
The bodies of the Abipones are muscular, robust, 
agile, and extremely tolerant of the inclemen- 
cies of the sky. You scarcely ever see a fat or 
pot-bellied person amongst them. Daily exer- 
cise in riding, hunting, and in sportive and seri- 
ous contests prevents them almost always from 
growing fat, for like apes they are always in 
motion. They consequently enjoy such an 



excellent habit of body, and such sound health 
as most Europeans might envy. Many diseases 
which afflict and exhaust Europeans are not 
even known by name amongst them. Gout, 
dropsy, epilepsy, jaundice, stone, &c. are words 
foreign and monstrous to their ears. They ex- 
pose their bare heads for whole days to the heat 
of the sun, and yet you never hear one of them 
complain of head-ache* You would swear they 
were devoid of feeling, or made of brass or mar- 
ble ; yet even these grow hot when acted on 
by the rays of the sun. After having been long 
parched with thirst in dry deserts, they drink 
large draughts of marshy, salt, muddy, stinking, 
bitter water, without injury. They greedily 
swallow quantities of hard, half-roasted beef, 
venison, tiger's and emu's flesh, and the eggs of 
the latter, without experiencing any consequent 
languor of the stomach, or difficulty of digestion. 
They often swim across vast rivers in cold rainy 
weather without contracting any ill affection of 
the bowels or bladder, which was often trouble- 
some to the Europeans in swimming, and, if suc- 
ceeded by strangury, dangerous. They ride 
seated on saddles made of hard leather during 
journeys of many weeks, and yet such long sitting 
does not injure the external skin even. They are 
unprovided with stirrups, and often use trotting 
horses, yet after many hours of uninterrupted 




riding you can perceive no signs of fatigue or ex- 
haustion in any of them. Stretched on a cold 
turf, should a sudden shower descend, they pass 
the night swimming in water, yet never know 
what the colic or the gout is. The Spaniards run 
the risk of both after being long drenched with 
rain water, which, when it touches the skin, af- 
fects the body most terribly in America, often 
producing syncope, and sometimes pustules and 
ulcers. I have frequently seen Spanish soldiers 
faint in the church from having been wetted 
with rain on their way thither. The Abi- 
ponespass many days and nights amid constant 
rain uninjured, because their feet are bare ; for 
the moisture contracted from rain hurts the feet 
when they are wrapt up more than when they 
are uncovered; as, finding no vent when it 
exhales, it creeps inwards, penetrates the bones 
and nerves, and affects the rest of the body in a 
terrible manner. But I can give you further 
proof of the strength of the Abipones. 

If a thorn of any plant happens to stick in 
their foot, and to break there, so that it cannot 
be duUad out by the finger, they will coolly 
cut the little piece of flesh, to which the thorn 
adheres, with a knife. When they go out to 
act the part of spies, or to reconnoitre distant 
places, they sit with both feet upon the horse's 
back. They climb high trees, and sit quietly 



on their boughs, in order to plunder the hives 
concealed there, without any sense of danger 
or giddiness. After their removal to our colo- 
nies, being fatigued with handling the axe and 
the plough, instruments to which they were 
unaccustomed, and feeling their strength fail 
them, their bodies bathed in sweat, and burn- 
ing with heat, they exclaimed, La yivichigui 
yauigra, now my blood is angry. For this they 
have a ready remedy : they plunge a knife deep 
into their leg, watch the blood spouting from 
it for some time with pleased eyes, and at 
length stop it by applying a clod to the wound, 
saying with a cheerful voice that they are re- 
covered, and feel perfectly well. They are 
as lavish, and almost prodigal in shedding 
their blood, for the purpose of obtaining glory, 
as of procuring health; for in public drink- 
ing parties they cruelly prick their breast, 
arms and tongue with a bundle of thorns, or 
with the sharp bones of a crocodile's back, with 
much effusion of blood. They emulate one 
another in doing this, in order to obtain a re- 
putation for bravery, and that these sponta- 
neous wounds may render them less fearful of 
shedding their blood in engagements with the 
enemy, and may make their skin impenetrable 
by covering it with scars. Boys of seven years 
old pierce their little arms in imitation of their 

D 2 



I ,1 Hi 

parentSj and display plenty of wounds, indica- 
tions of courage superior to their years, and 
preludes of war, for which they are educated 
from earliest infancy. 

Persons wasted to a skeleton, and with every 
symptom of fever and consumption, we have 
seen restored to health by daily eating and 
drinking the alfaroba. When seized with a 
violent disorder, or dangerously wounded, they 
recover by the use of this easily obtained re- 
medy, or, like dogs, without any at all. I have 
often with horror beheld many of them wounded 
with various kinds of weapons, their side pierced, 
their bone§ and ribs broken, t^heir breath drawn 
with difficulty, the blood streaming from their 
numerous wounds ; themselves, in short, the 
breathing images of death. When I saw these 
very Abipones a few weeks afterwards, riding 
or drinking, in full health, I could attribute it 
to nothing but the strength of their constitu- 
tions ; for it certainly could not be owing to 
their unskilful physicians and inefficacious me- 
dicines. Every one knows that small-pox and 
measles are almost the only, and by far the 
most calamitous pest by which America is ex- 
hausted. The Abipones take the infection like 
the other Indians, but seldom fall victims to 
the disease, though, whilst under its influence, 
they are less careful of themselves than the 



other natives. Owing to the more healthy tem- 
perature of their blood and humours, it does 
not cause either so much, or such noxious mat- 
tep in them as it does in others. Of the small- 
pox I shall discourse more fully hereafter. 
They live and enjoy their health many years 
after they have been wounded with leaden bul- 
lets without ever suffering them to be extracted : 
as a proof of their strength they often showed 
us a bullet sticking, without injury, in their 
arm or foot, and offered it us to handle. It is 
still more remarkable that a musket ball seldom 
proves fatal to the Abipones, unless it strike 
the heart or the head : their Cacique, the re- 
nowned Kaapetraikin, received a ball of this 
kind into his forehead without any dangerous 
consequences. Considering these things I 
often wondered why the savages dreaded fire- 
arms so much, since they very rarely proved 
fatal to them. But as children are afraid of 
ignes fatui, though harmless ; in like manner 
the Indians fear the report more than the ball, 
which they so often find to miss of its aim, and 
prove formidable to the air alone. These in- 
stances will, if I mistake not, do something 
towards convincing Europeans of the strength 
of the Abipones. Neither shall I ever be a 
convert to the opinion that the Americans are 
possessed of a duller and less acute sense of 

D 3 



corporal inconvenience. The Abipones are 
highly sensible of the impressions of the ele- 
ments, the injuries of weapons, and the pain 
arising from these causes, but are not so much 
overcome and exhausted by them as most 
others, either because they are blessed with 
a better temperature of blood and humours, 
and greater strength of limbs and muscles, or 
because the hardships they have been accus- 
tomed to from childhood, render them callous, 
or because their eager thirst after military fame 
impels them to deny that anything gives them 
pain, though they be ever so much affected 
by it, 

I have already observed that they seldom 
grow bald, and not grey till at an advanced 
period of life. Even when arrived at extreme 
age they can hardly be said to have grown old, 
like certain plants which are always green and 
vigorous. Cicero, in his treatise on Old Age, 
bestows great praise on Massinissa, king of 
Mauritania, who, at ninety years of age, cum 
ingressus iter pedibus sit, in equum omnind non 
ascendit : cum equo, ei' equo non descend it. Nullo 
imbre, nullo f rigor e addiicitur, ut capite operto sit. 
E.vequitur onmia regis officia et munera, S^c. The 
Roman orator would find all the old Abipones 
so many Massinissas, or even more vigorous 
than Massinissa. He v^ould scarce believe his 



own eyes were he to see men, alnaost a hun- 
dred years old, leap on to a fiery horse, without 
the aid of a stirrup, like a boy of twelve years 
old, sit it for hours, and even whole days, be- 
neath a burning sun, climb trees for honey, 
travel or lie upon the ground in cold or rainy 
weather, contend with the enemy in battle, 
shrink from no toils of the army or the chase, 
evince wonderful acuteness both of sight and 
hearing, preserve all their teeth quite sound, and 
seem only to be distinguished by the number of 
their years from men in the prime of life. All 
these things will hardly be credited in Europe 
where they are so rare. In the colonies of the 
Abipones I daily beheld old men, like youths in 
every other respect but that of age, without 
surprize. If a man dies at eighty he is la- 
mented as if cut off in the flower of his age. 
Women generally live longer than men, because 
they are not killed in war, and because the 
moistness of their nature renders them more 
long lived. You find so many old women a 
hundred years of age, amongst the Abipones, 
that you may wonder at, but will scarce be 
able to count them. I cannot say that the 
pedestrian nations of Paraguay enjoy equal 
strength and longevity. The Guaranies, Lules, 
Isistines, Vilelas, and other pedestrian Indians, 
are subject to diseases like the Europeans, and 




I! ill 

both feel old age, and discover it by their habit 
of body. Their lives, like those of Europeans, 
are sometimes short, sometimes long. You 
find very few men a hundred years old, or even 
approaching to that age amongst them. It is 
worth while to investigate the causes of this 
exceeding vigour of the Abipones, 








The Abipones are indebted for their strength 
and longevity partly to their parents, partly to 
themselves. The vigour of youth, preserved by 
temperance, accompanies them during the whole 
of their lives, and is even transmitted to their 
children. The Abipones never indulge in licen- 
tious gratifications during youth, and though of 
a fiery temperament, debilitate their constitu- 
tions by no irregularities. They amuse them- 
selves with conversation, mirth, and jesting, but 
always within the limits of modesty. By a sort 
of natural instinct peculiar to themselves, both 
boys and girls hold in abhorrence all means and 
opportunities of infringing the laws of decorum : 
you never see them talking together either pub- 
licly or privately ; never idling in the street. The 
girls love to assist their mothers in domestic 
employments ; the continual exercise of arms 
and horses engrosses the chief attention of the 
young men. 

The Indians of other nations are often shorter, 
slenderer, and less robust. Many of them con- 





sume away before they arrive at manhood; 
others grow prematurely old, and die an un- 
timely death. Do you enquire the cause ? I 
will tell you my opinion on the subject. Many 
are unhealthy because their parents are so ; 
others from being oppressed with labour, and very 
poorly provided with food, clothes, and lodg- 
ing; the majority because they have exhausted 
their natural vigour by indulging from their 
earliest youth in shameful pleasures. Libidinosa 
etenim, et intemperans adolescentia effcetum corpus 
tradit senectuti, as Cicero observes, in his trea- 
tise on Old Age. How many of those who die 
a premature death would deserve to have this 
epitaph engraven on their tomb, Nequitia est 
qucB te non sinit esse senem. Too early marriages 
are often a cause why we find the other In- 
dians weaker and less vigorous and long-lived 
than the Abipones, who never think of enter- 
ing the matrimonial state till they are near 
thirty years old, and never marry a woman 
under twenty ; which, as philosophers and phy- 
sicians say, conduces much to the preservation 
of strength, lengthening of life, and producing 
robust children. It cannot be doubted, that 
tender parents never produce very strong chil- 
dren; and since the affections of the mind are 
consequences of the habit of the body, as Galen 
teaches with much prolixity, it cannot be won- 



dered that such children should be as imbecile 
in mind as in body. 

Their education also conduces greatly to 
form the manners and strengthen the bodies of 
the Abipones. For, as Quintilian observes, in 
his first book of Institutes, that soft kind of 
breeding, which we call indulgence, relaxes all 
the nerves both of the mind and body. No one 
can object to the education of the Abipones 
on account of its delicacy. The children are 
plunged into a cold stream, if there be one at a 
convenient distance, as soon as they see the 
light. They know of no such things as cradles, 
feathers, cushions, swathing- clothes, blandish- 
ments, and toys. Covered with a light garment 
of otters' skins, they sleep wherever chance di- 
rects, and crawl upon the ground like little pigs. 
Whenever a mother has to take a journey on 
horseback, she places the child in a bag made of 
boars' skins, and suspended from the saddle 
along with the puppies, pots, gourds, &c. The 
husband will often come and snatch his little 
son, as he is sucking, from its mother's arms, 
set him on his own horse, and behold him 
riding with eyes sparkling with pleasure. When 
a mother is swimming in a river for the sake of 
a bath, she presses her infant to her breast with 
one hand, while she uses the other as an oar. 
If the child be pretty big, it is thrown into the 



water, that it may learn to swim while it is but 
just beginning to walk. You seldom see little 
boys but just weaned walking in the street with- 
out a bow and arrow. -They shoot birds, flies, 
and all kinds of small animals. Their usual 
amusement is shooting at a mark. They go out 
every day on horseback, and ride races with one 
another. All these things undoubtedly conduce 
much towards strengthening and enlarging the 
body. Would that European mothers could be 
brought to discard the unnatural artifices and in- 
dulgences used in the bringing up of their chil- 
dren ! Oh that they would moderate the ban- 
dages and cloths with which they bind, and as 
it were imprison and enchain the tender little 
bodies of their infants ! then should we see fewer 
bandy-legged, hump-backed, dwarfish, weak, 
and diseased persons in Europe. 

The Abipones wear a garment not tight to 
their bodies, but loose and flowing down to their 
heels; calculated to cover, not load and oppress 
the body, and to defend it from the injuries of 
the weather, without preventing the perspira- 
tion, or impeding the circulation of the blood. 
All the wise people of the east, and most of the 
ancient Germans, made choice of a large wide 
garment. What if we say that their bodies 
were consequently larger, and filled a wider 
space ? Those who wish to enjoy their health. 



should attend to the maxim ne quid nimis, in 
dress as well as in other things. On the 
other hand too scanty clothing is assuredly pre- 
judicial to health. Prudent persons vary their 
dress according to the state of the air, as sea- 
men shift their sails. Even the Abipones of 
both sexes, and of every age, though satisfied 
at other times with a woollen garment, put on 
a kind of cloak, skilfully sewed, of otters' skins, 
when the cold south wind is blowing. This 
skin garment bears some sort of resemblance to 
the cloak which we priests wear to sing vespers 
in the church. 

Galen, in his work on the preservation of the 
health, boldly and truly asserts that too great 
repose of body is highly prejudicial, but mode- 
rate and proper motion, on the other hand, of 
the utmost utility. This is consonant to the 
words ofCelsus, Lib. I. c. 1. Ignavia corpus he- 
betat, labor jirmat ; ilia prcEmaturam senectam, 
iste lo7igam adolescentiam reddit. You cannot 
therefore be surprized that the Abipones are ath- 
letic like the Macrobii. They are in continual 
motion. Riding, hunting, and swimming are 
their daily employments. War, either against 
men or beasts, occasions them to take very long 
excursions. Their business is to swim across 
rivers, climb trees to gather honey, make spears, 
bows, and arrows, weave ropes of leather, dress 


saddles, practise every thing, in short, fatiguing to 
thehands orfeet. Butif they indulge themselves 
with an intermission of these employments, 
they ride horseraces for a sword which is given 
to him who reaches the goal first. Another very 
common game amongst the Abipones is one 
which they play on foot. The instrument with 
which it is performed is a piece of wood about 
two hands long, rounded like a staff, thicker at 
the extremities and slenderer in the middle. 
This piece of wood they throw to the mark, 
with a great effort, in such a manner that it 
strikes the ground every now and then, and re- 
bounds, like the stones which boys throw along 
the surface of a river. Fifty and often a hun- 
dred men stand in a row and throw this piece 
of wood by turns, and he who flings it the far- 
thest and the straightest obtains the sword. 

This game, which from boys they are accus- 
tomed to play at for hours together, amuses and 
fatigues them with wonderful benefit to their 
health. The same piece of wood which serves 
both as an instrument of peace and war, is made 
formidable use of by many of the savages to 
crush the bodies of their enemies and of wild 
beasts. The Abipones hate to lead the life of 
a snail, idle and listless, and consequently do 
not undergo a swift and miserable decay, like 
those who are stupefied with sloth, confined to 



their bed, table, or gaming-table, and seldom 
stir out into the street or country. The Abipo- 
nian women, though debarred from the sports 
and equestrian contests of the men, have scarce 
time to rest or breathe, so much are they occu- 
pied day and night with the management of 
their domestic affairs. Hence that masculine 
vigour of the females in producing almost gigan- 
tic offspring, hence their strength and longevity. 
The food also to which the Abipones are 
accustomed, in my judgment contributes not a 
little to prolong their lives. What Tacitus says 
of the ancient Germans is applicable to them : 
Cibi simplices, agrestia poma, recens fera, aut lac 
concretum, sine apparatu, sine blandimentis expel- 
lant famem. They feed, as chance directs, upon 
beef, or the flesh of wild animals, mostly roast- 
ed, but seldom boiled. If the plain afford them 
no wild beasts to hunt, the water will supply 
their hunger with various kinds of fish besides 
otters, ducks, capibaris, &c. From the air also 
they receive birds that are by no means to be 
despised, and from the woods divers fruits, to 
appease the cravings of appetite. Should all 
these be wanting, roots concealed beneath the 
ground or the water are converted into food. 
Necessity alone will induce them to taste fishes, 
though excellent. Tigers' flesh, spite of its vile 
odour, is in such esteem amongst them that if 



one of them kills a tiger, he cuts it into small 
portions, and divides it amongst himself and his 
companions, that all the hordesmen may share in 
what they think so delightful a delicacy. It is 
an old complaint amongst physicians that new- 
seasonings of food imported from the new world 
have brought with them new diseases into Eu- 
rope. This complaint cannot affect the Abi- 
pones, who are unacquainted with seasonings, 
and feed upon simple fare. They detest vinegar ; 
and salt, though as fond of it as goats, they are 
seldom able to obtain, their land producing 
neither salt nor salt-pits. To remedy this defi- 
ciency they burn a shrub called by the Spa- 
niards vidriera, and sprinkle its ashes, which have 
a saltish taste, on meat and on tobacco leaves, 
previously chewed and kneaded together with 
the saliva of old women. But as many of the 
Abiponian hordes are destitute of this shrub, the 
ashes of which are used for salt, they generally 
eat their meat unsalted. No one ever denied 
that the moderate use of salt is wholesome, for 
it sucks up noxious humours, and prevents 
putrefaction: but the too frequent use of it 
deadens the eye-sight, exhausts the better juices, 
and creates acrid ones injurious both to the 
blood and skin, by which means physicians say 
that the urinal passages are frequently hurt. 
We found in Paraguay that horses, mules, oxen, 



and sheep fattened only in those pastures where 
plenty of nitre, or some saltish substance was 
mixed with the grass ; if that be wanting the 
cattle very soon become ragged and lean. 
Meat sprinkled with salt will keep a long time, 
but the more plentifully it is salted the sooner 
it stinks and putrefies, the moisture into which 
salt dissolves united with heat accelerating 
putrefaction. Beef hardened by the air alone, 
and fish dried with nothing but smoke, will keep 
many months without a grain of salt, as I and 
all the savages know from experience. When 
we sailed back from Paraguay to Europe our 
chief provisions consisted of meat part salted, 
part dried by the air alone. The latter from 
having no salt in it remained well tasted and 
free from decay till we reached the port of Cadiz, 
while the other soon putrefied and was thrown 
into the sea even by the hungry sailors. Now 
hear what inference I draw from all this. 
Since the Abipones, though they use salt but 
seldom and in small quantities, are generally 
healthy and long-lived, I cannot but suspect 
that abstinence from salt conduces more to the 
well being of the body than the too unsparing 
use of it. 

That diet regulating both meat and drink is 
the source of a late old age, firm health, and 
long life is unanimously agreed by all the great 


. E 




physicians and philosophers. I have repeatedly 
affirmed that the Abipones are vigorous, and 
long-lived, yet who can call them studious of 
diet ? They eat when, as much, and as often as 
they like. They have no fixed hours for dinner 
or for supper, but if food be at hand will dine 
as soon as they wake. Hungry at all hours 
they eat at all hours; and an, appetite will never 
be wanting if they have wherewith to exercise 
it upon. You would think that the more they 
devour the sooner they are hungry. They 
are voracious, and, like the other Americans, 
cram themselves with flesh, but without injury 
to their health; for their stomachs, which 
will bear both a great quantity of food, and 
long abstinence from it, are weakened neither 
by gormandizing nor by extreme hunger. They 
undertake journies of many months unfurnished 
with any provision. A sufficiency of proper 
food is often not to be met with on the way, 
either from the want of an opportunity of hunt- 
ing, or from the unintermitting haste with 
which the desire of surprizing, or necessity 
of flying the enemy obliges them to pursue 
their journey. Yet an empty belly and barking 
stomach never do them any harm, nor even 
prevent them from cheerfully conversing to 
still the sense of hunger. On such occasions 
you see them betray no sign of impatience, nor 

! •'; 111'! 



complain of any indisposition of body. I do not 
pretend to deny that temperance in eating and 
drinking is the parent of longevity, and glut- 
tony that of disease and premature death; 
knowing that many saintly hermits have pro- 
longed their lives to an hundred years, spite of 
continual fasting, and that perhaps they would 
have attained a still greater age had they taken 
more nourishment. Yet I scarce wonder that 
these Christian heroes lived so long, upon poor 
and sparing diet, because they were always 
celibate, and remained fixed to one spot with- 
out ever experiencing great fatigue. Neither, 
on the other hand, does it surprize me that 
the Abipones should enjoy such singular lon- 
gevity, united with so much voracity ; for they, 
who are all married, weary themselves with 
running, hunting, swimming, riding, and mili- 
tary exercises, and consequently to recruit 
their strength, require, and easily digest a 
greater quantity of food : for their vigour 
would decay and their great bodies languish 
were they not frequently reinvigorated with 
plenty of victuals. The Abipones are daily 
obliged to assuage their thirst with river or 
marsh water, which is generally tepid or warm, 
very seldom cold, and not always quite fresh : 
might not this be a circumstance conducive to 
health? For physicians prefer river or rain 

E 2 



water to that of a spring, because it is lighter 
and impregnated with fewer noxious particles. 
The Chinese never taste a drop of cold water. 
Many think that snow and ice-water cause 
divers disorders. Snow, ice, springs of Avater, 
and subterranean cells for cooling liquors are 
no where to be found in the territories of 
the Abipones, who are also unacquainted with 
wine expressed from grapes, or burnt out 
of fruits by chemic art. But though they 
use nothing but water to quench their thirst, 
yet on the birth of a child, the death of a 
relation, a resolution of war, or a victory, 
they assemble together to drink a strong liquor 
made of honey or the alfaroba infused in 
water, which when fermented causes intoxi- 
cation, but taken moderately is of much ser- 
vice to the health. For it is universally 
thought that the alfaroba and wild honey 
conduce much to prolong life and confirm the 
health. The Abipones are in the habit of 
drinking honey, in which the woods abound, 
very frequently ; what if we call this a cause 
of their vigour and longevity? Both how- 
ever they partly owe to the use of the alfaroba, 
which they either eat dried, or drink in great 
quantities, as wine, when fermented in water 
by its own native heat. Taken either way it 
possesses singular virtue, for it restores the 




exhausted strength, fattens the body, clears 
and refreshes the breast, quickly and copiously 
discharges the bladder by its diuretic pro- 
perty, radically cures many disorders, is 
extremely efficacious against the stone, and 
aflfords a strong alleviation to nephritic dis- 
eases. Persons who had tried it assured me 
of its possessing those virtues. More robust 
and healthy horses are no where to be found 
throughout the wide extent of Paraguay, than 
those born in the territory of St. lago del 
Estero, because they feed principally upon thq 

Add to this that the Abipones bathe almost 
every day in some lake or river. Bathing 
was certainly much practised, and reckon-> 
ed of singular utility amongst the ancients „ 
For as the dirt is washed off by the water, 
the pores of the skin are opened, and the 
perspiration of the body rendered easier and 
more commodious; a great advantage to the 
health. Some prefer cold bathing to bleed- 
ing, for by the one process the blood is only 
cooled, by the other it is exhausted. To con- 
tinual bathing therefore, the Abipones are in 
a great measure indebted for the health and 
longevity which they possess to such an 
enviable degree. This opinion is confirmed in 
Bacon's History of Life and Death, where i^ 






is asserted that " washing in cold water con- 
tributes to lengthen life, and that the use of 
warm baths has a contrary effect." P. 131. 
The same author is of opinion that " persons who 
pass great part of their lives out of doors are 
generally longer-lived than those that stay 
more within." The Abipones spend most of 
their time out of the house, and consequently 
breathe the pure air of heaven which is so 
salutary to the human body. Though they 
dwell under mats spread like a tent, or in fixed 
huts, they never suffer the air to be entirely 
excluded. Nor are they content with living in 
the open air, they also choose to be buried there, 
entertaining an incredible repugnance to sepul- 
chres within the church. As the Abipones live 
long and enjoy excellent health, though entire- 
ly destitute of physicians and druggists, I can 
hardly help reckoning their absence amongst 
the causes which co-operate to render the 
savages superior in vigour and longevity to 
most Europeans, amongst whom as physicians 
are numerous, and medicine in general use, 
there are many sick persons and few very old 
men. The Abiponian physicians, of whom I 
shall speak more fully hereafter, are impostors 
more ignorant than brutes, and totally unwor- 
thy the splendid title of physicians, being born 
not to heal the sick, but to cheat them with 
juggleries and frauds. 




That health of body depends in a high 
degree upon tranquillity of mind is incontes- 
tible : the functions of the brain are disturbed, 
the stomach grows languid, the strength fails 
for want of food, and the better juices are 
destroyed, when the mind is oppressed by 
turbulent affections, by anxiety, love, fear, 
anger, or sadness. The body will be sane if 
inhabited by a sane mind. This being the 
case, we cannot wonder that the Abipones 
are possessed of great vigour and longevity. 
Their minds are generally in a tranquil state. 
They live reckless of the past, little curious 
about the present, and very seldom anxious 
for the future. They fear danger, but either 
from not perceiving or from despising the 
weightiness of it, always think themselves able 
to subdue or avoid it. When a numerous foe 
is announced to be at hand they either provide 
for their safety by a timely flight, or await 
the assault, and amidst jocund songs quaff 
mead, their elixir, which inspires them with 
courage, and banishes fear. Gnawing cares 
about the augmentation of their property, or 
concerning food and raiment, have no place 
amongst them. They make no mortal of such 
account as to die, or run mad, for hate or 
love of him. No affections with them are either 
violent or of long duration. This tranquillity 

E 4 


j ;,V 

i|.| iflj 

of mind cherishes the body, and prolongs their 
lives to extreme old age. I allow that the 
climate in which they live, and which is neither 
starved with cold nor parched with heat, is 
one strengthener of the health, but I deny that 
it is the only one ; for neither the Spaniards 
nor the other Indians, though they enjoy the 
same temperature of air, live and thrive like 
the Abipones. Europeans, if they envy the 
longevity of the Abipones, should imitate, as 
far as possible, their manner of life* They 
should tranquillize their minds by subduing 
vehement passions. They should interpose a 
little exercise of body between inaction, and 
sedentary occupations ; they should mingle 
water with wine, rest with labour. They 
should moderate their luxuries in dress and 
eating. They should use simple food, not 
such as is adulterated by art, and for the pur- 
pose of satisfying, not of provoking the appetite, 
but make sparing application to medicines and 
physicians. And lastly, which is of the great- 
est importance for preserving vigour, they 
should abhor pleasures, the sure destruction of 
the body, as much as they desire a green old 


Hmc est summa delicti, nolle recognoscere quern 
ignorare non possit, are the words of Tertullian, 
in his Apology for the Christians. Theologians 
agree in denying that any man in possession of 
his reason can, without a crime, remain igno- 
rant of God for any length of time. This opi- 
nion I warmly defended in the University of 
Cordoba, where I finished the four years' course 
of theology begun at Gratz in Styria. But 
what was my astonishment, when on removing 
from thence to a colony of Abipones, I found 
that the whole language of these savages does 
not contain a single word which expresses God 
or a divinity. To instruct them in religion, it 
was necessary to borrow the Spanish word for 
God, and insert into the catechism Dios ecnam 
caogarik, God the creator of things. 

Penafiel, a Jesuit theologian, declared that 
there were many Indians who, on being asked 
whether, during the whole course of their lives, 
they ever thought of God, replied no, never. 
The Portugueze and Spaniards, who first landed 


1 i 'iri 



on the shores of America, affirmed that they 
could discover scarcely any traces of the know- 
ledge of God amongst the Brazilians, and other 
savages. The Apostle Paul, in the first chapter 
of his Epistle to the Romans, declares that 
this ignorance of God is by no means devoid of 
blame, and indeed that it cannot be excused ; 
so that they are without excuse, because from 
the very sight of the things created, they might 
arrive at the knowledge of God the Creator. 
But if any one think the case admits of palliation, 
he will say that the American savages are slow, 
dull, and stupid in the apprehension of things 
not present to their outward senses. Reason- 
ing is a process troublesome and almost un- 
known to them. It is, therefore, no wonder 
that the contemplation of terrestrial or celestial 
objects should inspire them with no idea of the 
creative Deity, nor indeed of any thing heavenly. 
Travelling with fourteen Abipones, I sat down 
by the fire in the open air, as usual, on the high 
shore of the river Plata. The sky, which was 
perfectly serene, delighted our eyes with its 
twinkling stars. I began a conversation with 
the Cacique Ychoalay, the most intelligent of 
all the Abipones I have been acquainted with, 
as well as the most famous in war. " Do you 
behold," said I, " the splendour of Heaven, 
with its magnificent arrangement of stars ? Who 

!! 'SJ 



can suppose that all this is produced by chance ? 
The waggon, as you yourself know, is ever- 
turned, unless the oxen have some one to guide 
them. A boat will either sink, or go out of the 
right course, if destitute of a pilot. Who then 
can be mad enough to imagine that all these 
beauties of the Heavens are the effect of chance, 
and that the revolutions and vicissitudes of the 
celestial bodies are regulated without the di- 
rection of an omniscient mind ? Whom do you 
believe to be thek creator and governour ? 
What were the opinions of your ancestors on 
the subject ?" " My father," replied Ychoalay, 
readily and frankly, " our grandfathers and 
great grandfathers were wont to contemplate the 
earth alone, solicitous only to see whether the 
plain afforded grass and water for their horses. 
They never troubled themselves about what 
went on in the Heavens, and who was the 
creator and governour of the stars." 

I have observed the Abipones, when they are 
unable to comprehend any thing at first sight, 
soon grow weary of examining it, and cry 
orqueenam? what is it after all? Sometimes 
the Guaranies, when completely puzzled, knit 
their brows and cry tupd oiquaa, God knows 
what it is. Since they possess such small 
reasoning powers, and have so little inclination 
to exert them, it is no wonder that they are 

\ ! 


neither able nor willing to argue one thing from 

You cannot imagine in what dark colours the 
Europeans, who first entered these provinces, de- 
scribed thestupidityof the Americans. Brother 
Thomas Ortiz, afterwards Bishop of Sta. Martha, 
intimates in his letters to the Court of Madrid, 
that the Americans are foolish, dull, stupid, 
and unreasoning like beasts, that they are in- 
capable of understanding the heads of religion, 
and devoid of human sense and judgement. 
Some of the Spaniards thought the Americans 
so stupid, that they wished to exclude them, 
even after they were grown up, from baptism, 
confession, and other sacraments, as being in 
the condition of infants who are not yet pos- 
sessed of reason. Paul the Third was oblisfed 
to issue a bull, in the year 1537, the second of 
June, by which he pronounced the Indians to 
be really men, and capable of understanding 
the Catholic faith, and receiving the sacraments, 
the cause of the Indians being pleaded by 
Bartolomeo De las Casas, afterwards Bishop 
of Chiapa. The pontifical decree begins Vetitas 
ipsa, and is extant in Harold. Notwithstanding 
this, " the adult Indians in Peru, who have 
been baptized and properly confessed, do not 
partake of the divine communion once every 



year, nor indeed when on the point of death," 
as Acosta says in the eighth chapter of his 
work : De procuranda Indorum Salute. Nor 
did the exhortations and comminations of the 
famous councils at Lima procure the Indians 
permission to partake of the eucharist, as 
appears from the complaints and decrees of the 
synods held in the next century at Lima, 
Plata, Arequipa, Paza, and Paraguay. For 
the priests, who denied the eucharist, always 
alleged the stupidity, ignorance, and inveterate 
wickedness of the Indians in their excuse. 
But the synod held at Paza in the year 1638, 
was of opinion that this ignorance of the 
Indians should be ascribed to the negligence 
of their pastors, by whose sedulous instruction 
these wretches might have emerged from the 
native darkness of their minds, and from the 
slough of wickedness. 

Taught by the experience of eighteen years 
spent amongst the Guaranies, and Abipones, I 
profess to hold the same opinion, having my- 
self seen most barbarous savages born in the 
woods, accustomed from their earliest age to 
superstition, slaughter, and rapine, and na- 
turally dull and stupid as brutes, who, after 
their removal to the colonies of the Jesuits, by 
daily instruction and by the example of old con- 
verts, became well acquainted with and attached 



to the divine law. Although the Americans are 
but slow of understanding, yet when the good 
sense of the teacher compensates for the stupi- 
dity of his pupils, they are successfully con- 
verted to civilization and piety, and even in- 
structed in arts of all kinds. If you wish to 
see, with your own eyes, to what a degree in- 
struction sharpens the wits of the Indians, and 
enlarges their comprehensions, go and visit the 
Guarany towns ; in all of which you will find 
Indians well skilled in the making and handling 
of musical instruments, in painting, sculpture, 
cabinet-making, working metals of every kind, 
weaving, architecture, and writing; and some 
who can construct clocks, bells, gold clasps, 
&c. according to all the rules of art. More- 
over, there were many who printed books, even 
of a large size, not only in their native tongue, 
but m the Latin language, with brass types, 
which they made themselves. They also write 
books with a pen so artfully, that the most 
discerning European would swear they were 
printed. The Bishops, Governours, and other 
visitants, were astonished at the workmanship 
of the Indians, which they saw or heard of in 
the Guarany towns. The Guaranies were in- 
structed in music, and other arts, by the Jesuit 
Missionaries, Italians, Flemings, and Germans, 
who found the Indians docile beyond their ex- 



pectation. Of this, however, I am perfectly 
certain, that the Indians comprehend what they 
see sooner and more easily than what they 
hear, like the rest of mankind, who are all 
more readily instructed by the eyes than by 
the ears. If you desire a Guarany to paint or 
engrave any thing, place a copy before his eyes, 
and he will imitate it and execute his task with 
accuracy and elegance. If a pattern be wanting, 
and the Indian be left to his own devices, he 
will produce nothing but stupid bungling work, 
though you may have endeavoured to explain 
your wishes to him as fully as possible. Nei- 
ther should you imagine that the Americans 
are deficient in memory. It was an old custom 
in the Guarany Reductions to make the chief 
Indian of the town, or one of the magistrates, 
repeat the sermon just delivered from the pulpit 
before the people in the street, or in the court- 
yard of our house ; and they almost all did it 
with the utmost fidelity, without missing a 
sentence. Any piece of music which they have 
either sung or played on the flute, or organ, 
two or three times from note, becomes so in- 
j&xed in their memory, that if the music paper 
were caried away by the wind, they would have 
no further occasion for it. From these things 
a theologian will infer that the thinking powers 
of the Abipones are not circumscribed by such 


■I'l'i'i'l ''ill! 

iifi i 



narrow limits as to render them incapable of 
knowing, or at least suspecting the existence of 
a God, the creator and governour of all things, 
from the sight of the things created. The 
nation of the Guaranies, though formerly very- 
ferocious, knew the supreme Deity, whom they 
call Tupd, a word composed of two particles, tu, 
a word of admiration, and pa, of interrogation. 
I said that the Abi pones were commendable 
for their wit and strength of mind ; but, ashamed 
of my too hasty praise, I retract my words, 
and pronounce them fools, idiots, and mad- 
men. Lo ! this is the proof of their insanity ! 
They are unacquainted with God, and with the 
very name of God, yet affectionately salute the 
evil spirit, whom they call Aharaigichi, or Que- 
evht, with the title of grandfather, Groaperikie. 
Him they declare to be their grandfather, and 
that of the Spaniards, but with this difference, 
that to the latter he gives gold and silver, and 
fine clothes, but that to them he transmits va- 
lour ; for they account themselves more coura- 
geous and intrepid than any of the Spaniards. 
Should you ask them what their grandfather 
formerly was, and of what condition, they will 
confess themselves utterly ignorant on the sub- 
ject. If you persist in your interrogations, 
they will declare this grandfather of theirs to 
have been an Indian — so barren and absurd is 





their theology. The Abipones think the Plei- 
ades to be the representation of their grand- 
father ; and as that constellation disappears at 
certain periods from the sky of South America, 
upon such occasions, they suppose that their 
grandfather is sick, and are under a yearly ap- 
prehension that he is going to die : but as soon 
as those seven stars are again visible in the 
month of May, they vi^elcome their grandfather, 
as if returned and restored from sickness, with 
joyful shouts, and the festive sound of pipes and 
trumpets, congratulating him on the recovery 
of his health. Quemen naachic latenc! layam 
nauichi ena? Ta yegam! Layamini! What 
thanks do we owe thee ! and art thou returned 
at last ? Ah ! thou hast happily recovered !— 
With such exclamations, expressive of their 
joy and their folly, do they fill the air. Next 
day they all go out to seek honey to make 
mead, and, as soon as that is prepared, they as- 
semble in one place, at the setting of the sun, 
to make public demonstration of gladness. 
They pass the night, the married Abipones sit- 
ting on the ground on skins, the by-standing 
women singing with a loud voice, and the crowd 
of single persons laughing and applauding, by 
the light of torches, which shine here and there 
about the market-place. Some female juggler, 
who conducts the festive ceremonies, dances at 




intervals, rattling a gourd full of hardish fruit- 
seeds to musical time, and, whirling round to 
the right with one foot, and to the left with 
another, without ever removing from one spot, 
or in the least varying her motions. This fool- 
ish crazy dance is mterrupted every now and 
then by the horrid clangor of military trumpets, 
in which the spectators join, making a loud 
noise by striking their lips with their hands. 
Yet in the midst of all this you can never per- 
ceive the smallest deviation from strict deco- 
rum. The men are decently separated from 
the women ; the boys from the girls. The 
female dancer, the priestess of these ridicu- 
lous ceremonies, as a mark of particular fa- 
vour," rubs the thighs of some of the men with 
her gourds, and, in the name of their grandfa- 
ther, promises them swiftness in pursuing ene- 
mies and wild beasts. At the same time the 
new male* and female jugglers, who are thought 
equal to the office, are initiated with many ce- 
remonies. Of this most mischievous descrip- 
tion of men I am now going to treat more fully. 

•1(5 m^ 

f if » 





If I remember rightly, no nation which has 
been discovered in Paraguay is without its 
jugglers, whom the Abipones call by the name 
o£ the devil, Keeb^t, or devilish workers, be- 
cause they believe them to have received from 
their grandfather, the evil spirit, the power of 
performing wonderful work far surpassing hu- 
man art. These rogues, who are of both sexes, 
profess to know and have the ability to do all 
things. There is not one of the savages who 
does not believe that it is in the power of 
these conjurors to inflict disease and death, 
to cure all disorders, to make known distant 
and future events; to cause rain, hail, and 
tempests ; to call up the shades of the dead, 
and consult them concerning hidden matters ; 
to put on the form of a tiger ; to handle every 
kind of serpent without danger, &c., which 
powers, they imagine, are not obtained by 
art, but imparted to certain persons by their 
grandfather, the devil. Those who aspire to 
the office of juggler are said to sit upon an 
^•ed willow, overhanging some lake, and to 



abstain from food for several days, till they be- 
gin to see into futurity. It always appeared 
probable to me that these rogues, from long 
fasting, contract a weakness of brain, a giddi- 
ness, and kind of delirium, which makes them 
imagine that they are gifted with superior wis- 
dom, and give themselves out for magicians. ' 
They impose upon themselves first, and after- 
wards upon others. But in reality they differ 
from the rest in nothing but the superior ability 
of concerting frauds to deceive others. Indeed . 
it is no difficult matter to cheat ignorant and 
credulous savages, who account every new 
thing, which they have never seen before, a 
prodigy, and immediately attribute it to magic 
art. Once when I happened to make some 
roses of red linen, to adorn the church, the In- 
dians watched me at my work with much in- 
terest, wondering at this imitation of nature, and 
exclaiming, "' This father is either a magician, 
or the son of a witch." A European lay-bro- 
ther of our order astonished the Indians by 
turning something of wood, vyith much skill 
and expedition, and was consequently spoken 
of by them all as the prince of magicians ; for 
till that day they had never seen a turning 
machine, nor any thing turned. Were they to 
behold fireworks, optical glasses, the experi- 
ments of the air-pump, and many other things 



which are every-day sights amongst Europeans, 
amazed at what would be so novel to their 
eyes, they would indeed swear them to be ab- 
solute proofs of magical art. This is confirmed 
by the circumstance of the Brazilians calling 
their conjurors Payh, and the art of working 
miracles Carayha, which name they afterwards 
gave to the European strangers, because they 
saw them perform things by art which, being 
formerly unknown to them, they imagined above 
the powers of nature. Hence also the Guara- 
nies, whose language bears much resemblance 
to that of Brazil, at this day call all the Spa^ 
niards and Europeans Caray. 

This simplicity of an ignorant people, the 
crafty jugglers know well how to turn to their 
own advantage, openly boasting themselves 
vicegerents and interpreters of the devil, their 
grandfather ; diviners of future events ; priests 
of the mysteries ; creators, or, as they please, 
healers of diseases ; necromancers, and gover- 
nours of all the elements; easily persuading 
these credulous creatures any thing that comes 
into their heads. They are furnished with a 
thousand arts of deceiving. Suppose they 
have heard from some savage visitant that an 
enemy is coming to attack the horde ; this 
knowledge they will boast of to their hordes- 
men as if it had been revealed to them by their 

F 3 

i 'if Mi 


grandfather, thus acquiring the reputation of 
prophets. Whatever they learn either from 
conjecture, from secret intelligence, or from 
their own examination, they predict to be about 
to happen with infinite pomposity, and are 
always listened to with as much attention as 
if they were actually inspired. Should their 
prophecies not be approved by the event, they 
are never at a loss for excuses to shelter their 
authority. Sometimes, in the dead of the 
night, they suddenly announce the enemy's 
approach with a whistle or a pipe. All are 
awakened, and without once calling in question 
the truth of the juggler's prediction, fly to 
arms. The women and children betake them- 
selves to a place of safety, and whilst they pass 
hours, nay whole nights, in the fear of death, 
and their husbands in threatening it to the 
assailants, not one of the enemy makes his ap- 
pearance, But that the faith in their prophe- 
cies, and the authority of the prophets, may 
suffer no diminution, they declare, with a 
smile, that the hostile assault has been averted 
by their grandfather the devil. At other times 
a body of enemies often rushes upon them on 
a sudden, when not one of these prophets has 
either foreseen or foretold the danger of an at- 
tack. A ridiculous event, a propos to this 
subject, occurs to my recollection. About 



night-fall an Abiponian boy brought an iron 
bridle, an axe, and some other trifles, the trea- 
sures of his family, to be guarded in my house. 
On being asked the reason of his doing so, he 
replied that the enemies would arrive in the 
night ; for so it had been predicted by his mo- 
ther, a famous juggler, who declared that when- 
ever the enemy was approaching, she felt a 
pricking sensation in her left arm. " Oh I" 
replied I, ** you may attribute that to the fleas, 
my good lad. I can tell you this on my own 
experience. Day and night I feel my left and 
my right arm too, as well as other parts of my 
body, insolently pricked and stung by fleas\ 
If that were an indication of the enemy, we 
should never be -free from their attacks night 
or day." But my words were vain ; for the 
report of the old woman's presage got abroad, 
and disturbed the whole town all night. Yet, 
as often happened, no sign or vestige of the 
enemy appeared. 

The Abipones, whom the desire of booty or 
glory induces to be constantly scheming war 
against others, are, in consequence, never free 
from suspicions of machinations against them- 
selves. The more ardently they desire to take 
measures for their safety, the more readily 
do they believe themselves in danger from 
others, and generally for some foolish reason. 





A light rumour, smoke seen from a distance, 
strange foot-marks, or the unseasonable barking 
of dogs, fills them with suspicions that their 
lives are in danger from the enemy, especially 
when they dread their vengeance for slaughters 
which themselves have lately committed. The 
task of tranquillizing and preparing their minds 
devolves upon the jugglers, who, whenever any 
thing is to be feared, or any thing to be done, 
consult the evil spirit. About the beginning 
of the night a company of old women assemble 
in a huge tent. The mistress of the band, an 
old woman remarkable for wrinkles and grey 
hairs, strikes every now and then two large 
discordant drums, at intervals of four sounds, 
and whilst these instruments return a horrible 
bellowing, she, with a harsh voice, mutters 
kinds of songs, like a person mourning. The 
surrounding women, with their hair dishevelled 
and their breasts bare, rattle gourds, and loudly 
chaunt funeral verses, which are accompanied 
by a continual motion of the feet, and tossing- 
about of the arms. But this infernal music is 
rendered still more insupportable by other 
performers, who keep constantly beating pans 
which are covered with deers' skin, and sound 
very acutely, with a stick. In this manner 
the night is passed. At day-break all flock 
to the old woman's tent, as to a Delphic 
oracle. The singers receive little presents, and 



are anxiously asked what their grandfather 
has said. The replies of the old women are 
generally of such doubtful import, that what- 
ever happens they may seem to have predict- 
ed the truth. Sometimes the devil is con- 
sulted by different women, in different tents, 
the same night. At day-break one party wili 
pertinaciously assert that the enemy are on the 
approach, which the other as obstinately deny- 
ing, a conflict of opinions ensues between these 
foolish interpreters of oracles, which generally 
ends in a bloody quarrel. Sometimes one of 
the jugglers is desired to call up the shade of a 
dead man, from which they may immediately 
learn what their fates reserve for them. A 
promiscuous multitude of every age and sex 
flocks to the necromancer's tent. The juggler 
is concealed beneath a bull's hide, which serves 
in the same manner as a stage-curtain. Having 
muttered a few extemporary verses, sometimes 
with a mournful, at others with a commanding 
voice, he at length declares that the shade of 
such a person, whoever the people choose, is 
present. Him he interrogates over and over 
again on future events, and, changing his voice, 
answers to himself whatever he thinks proper. 
Not one of the auditors dares to doubt of the 
presence of the shade, or the truth of its words. 
An Abipon of noble family and good under- 

i KMafcii .^ 



Standing, used many arguments to convince me 
that he had with his own eyes beheld the spirit 
of an Indian woman, whose husband was then 
living in our town. Spaniards also, who have 
lived from boyhood in captivity amongst the 
Abipones, are quite persuaded that the shades 
of the dead become visible at the call of a ne- 
cromancer, that they reply to questions, and 
that there is no deceit used in the business. 
But what sensible man would credit such wit- 
nesses, who are in the daily habit of deceiving 
and being deceived ? 

But from this custom of the savages of calling 

up the shades of the dead, we may deduce that 

they believe in the immortality of the soul, as 

may also be collected both from their rites and 

conversation. They place a pot, a garment, 

arms, and horses, fastened on stakes upon graves, 

that the dead may not be in want of the daily 

necessaries of life. They have an idea, that 

those little ducks, which the Abipones call 

ruUilih, and which fly about in flocks at night, 

uttering a mournful hiss, are the souls of the 

departed. The Spaniard Raphael de los Rios, 

who superintended the estate belonging to the 

town of St. Jeronymo, was cruelly murdered in 

his tent, in an assault of the savages, whilst I 

resided there. Some months after, an Abipo- 

nian catechumen came and anxiously enquired 



whether all the Spaniards went to Heaven when 
they died, and was told by my companion that 
those who had closed their lives with a pious 
death alone obtained this happiness. " I agree 
entirely with you," said the Abipon ; " for the 
Spaniard Raphael, who was killed here lately, 
seems not to have gained admittance yet ; our 
countrymen say that they see him riding in the 
plain every night, and hissing in a tnournful 
tone." This, though to be accounted either a 
mere fabrication, or the effect of fancy, justi- 
fies the conclusion, that the savages believe the 
soul to survive the body, though they are en- 
tirely ignorant of what becomes of it, or what 
may be its fate. The other people of Paraguay 
too hold the same opinion of the immortality 
of the soul. 

From what I have said of the jugglers, who 
does not see that all their knowledge, all their 
arts, consist of nothing but cunning, fraud, and 
deceit ? Yet the savages yield them the readiest 
faith and obedience during their lifetime, and 
after their death revere them as divine men. 
In their migrations, they reverently carry with 
them their bones and other reliques as sacred 
pledges. Whenever the Abipones see a fiery me- 
teor, or hear it thunder three or four times, these 
simpletons believe that one of their jugglers is 
dead, and that this thunder and lightning are 

; ! ' 


his funeral obsequies. If they ride out any 
where to hunt or fight, they are always accom- 
panied on their journey by one of these knaves, 
on whose words and advice they fully depend, 
believing that he knows and can foretel what- 
ever may conduce to the success of the expedi- 
tion; he teaches them the place, time, and man- 
ner proper for attacking wild beasts or the 
enemy. On an approaching combat, he rides 
round the ranks, striking the air with a palm 
bough, and with a fierce countenance, threaten- 
ing eyes, and affected gesticulations, imprecates 
evil on their enemies. This ceremony they 
think of much avail to securing them a victory. 
The best part of the spoils are adjudged to him 
as the fruits of his office. I observed that these 
crafty knaves have plenty of excellent horses, 
and domestic furniture superior to that of the 
rest. Whatever they wish for they extort from 
this credulous people. The Abipones account 
it a crime to contradict their words, or oppose 
their desires or commands, fearing their ven- 
geance. When any of the jugglers are ill 
disposed towards a man, they call him to their 
house, and are instantly obeyed. When he is 
come, they harshly reproach him for some ima- 
ginary fault or injury, and declare their inten- 
tion of punishing him in the name of their 
grandfather. They order him instantly to bare 



his breast and shoulders, and then pierce and 
tear his flesh with the jaw of the fish palometa. 
The poor wretch dares not ntter the least com- 
plaint, though streaming with blood, and thinks 
himself very fortunate in being suffered to de- 
part alive. 

At another time, when these bugbears think 
any one inimical or injurious to them, they will 
threaten to change themselves into a tiger, and 
tear every one of their hordesmen to pieces. No 
sooner do they begin to imitate the roaring of a 
tiger, than all the neighbours fly away in every 
direction. From a distance however they hear 
the feigned sounds. " Alas ! his whole body is 
beginning to be covered with tiger spots 1" cry 
they. '* Look, his nails are growing," the fear- 
struck women exclaim, although they cannot 
see the rogue, who is concealed within his tent; 
but that distracted fear presents things to their 
eyes which have no real existence. It was 
scarce possible to persuade them out of their 
absurd terrors. " You daily kill tigers in the 
plain," said I, " without dread, why then should 
you weakly fear a false imaginary tiger in the 
town ?" " You Fathers don't understand these 
matters," they reply, with a smile. '' We never 
fear, but kill tigers in the plain, because we can 
see them. Artificial tigers we do fear, because 
they can neither be seen nor killed by us.'J 



I combated this poor argument, by saying, " If 
that artificial tiger which your conjurors as- 
sume to alarm you cannot be seen, how, 
pray, can you tell that tigers' claws and nails 
begin to grow upon him ?" But it was vain to 
reason with men in whom the extreme pertina- 
city with which they adhered to the opinion of 
their ancestors superseded all reason. Should 
a furious tempest arise, they will all declare the 
deluge caused by profuse rain to be effected by 
the arts of the jugglers, and whilst some attri- 
bute the flood and hurricane to one, some to 
another, a still more furious and louder tempest 
arises amongst themselves. Hear my account 
of an event which I cannot remember without 
laughter. In the month of January, a quantity 
of heavy rain fell in the night, and precipitating 
itself from a neighbouring hill, nearly over- 
whelmed the colony of St. Jeronymo. The 
immense force of waters broke the leathern door, 
rushed into my hut where I was sleeping, and 
not immediately gaining egress, increased to 
about five palms in depth. Awakened by the 
noise, I put my arms out of bed, and using them 
as a plumb, measured the depth of the water ; 
and had not the wall, which was perforated by 
the flood, opened a way to the waters, I must 
have been obliged to swim for my life. The 
same thing happened to all the Abipones who 



dwelt on low ground, their huts being entirely- 
inundated. But lo ! the next morning a report 
was spread, that a female juggler, who had re- 
ceived some offence from one of the inhabitants 
of the town, had caused this great storm in the 
intent of drowning the whole horde, but that 
the clouds had been repulsed, the rain stopped, 
and the town saved by the interposition of an- 
other juggler. That dreadful flood did not ex- 
tend to the neighbouring plain, where Pariekai- 
kin, at that time chiefof the Abiponian jugglers, 
was then living with some companions, who, 
after a long drought, were very desirous of 
getting water. This Pariekaikin in an oracular 
manner declared, that Father Joseph Brigniel 
had caused that rain for the advantage of his 
town, and that because he, Pariekaikin, did not 
choose to reside there, he had, out of revenge, 
directed the clouds with such art, that not a 
drop of rain reached his station. For they 
made no hesitation in accounting that Father 
a conjuror, because he happily and speedily 
healed the sick. 

That the American jugglers enjoy familiar 
intercourse with the evil spirit is not only 
firmly believed by the ignorant savages, but 
some writers have even endeavoured to per- 
suade Europe to believe it. For my part, after 
so long an acquaintance with these nations I 

could never bring myself to credit it, always 
remaining of opinion that they neither know, 
nor are capable of performing any thing above 
human powers. Being firmly persuaded that 
they would do me all the evil in their power, 
I often accosted them in a friendly manner, 
and by all sorts of good offices endeavoured 
to prevail upon them to alter their manner of 
life, and embrace religion ; for by their example 
almost all the rest would regulate their con- 
duct. But this was like washing the blacka- 
moor white : for these wickedest of mortals, 
unwilling to part with their authority and lu- 
crative office, left no stone unturned, no frauds 
unattempted to deter and intimidate their 
countrymen from going to church, attending 
to the instructions of the priests, and receiving 
baptism, daily denouncing death, and destruc- 
tion on the whole nation, unless they obeyed. 
Nor is this either new or surprizing. In all 
the American nations the teachers of the holy 
religion have found the jugglers upholders of 
ancient superstition, and rocks in the way of 
the desired progress of the Christian law. 
Good heavens ! what contests, and what trou- 
ble did they not cause to Antonio Ruiz de Mon- 
toya, the famous Guarany missionary ! It was 
not till he had repressed the authority of the 
remaining jugglers, and commanded the bones of 



the dead ones, which were universally wor- 
shipped with great honours, to be burnt in the 
presence of the people, that he converted an 
infinite number of savages to the Christian 
religion, and induced them to enter colonies. 
Till these knavish holophants, and sycophants 
to speak with Plautus, are abolished, nothing 
can be done with the savages ; this I affirm on 
experience. The town of St. Joachim not 
only merited the praise of religion, but pro- 
duced many fruits of genuine piety. But as 
snakes often lurk in the grass, and tares in the 
most abundant harvest, an old Indian secretly 
performed the office of juggler there, and suf- 
fered himself to be adored as a divine person 
by some foolish women, whom he served in 
the double capacity of physician, and prophet, 
at the same time carrying on a criminal inter^ 
course with them. These things were dis- 
closed to me by Ignatius Paranderi, chief 
Cacique of the town; so that judging it advisable 
immediately to reprove this mischievous old 
man in public, since private admonitions were 
of no avail, I repaired to his house attended 
by all the chief people of the place ; and imi- 
tating, in this important business, the thundering 
tongue of Cicero when he fulminated against 
Catiline, addressed him in the following man- 
ner. " How long, accursed old man, will you 




belie your profession of Christianity, by daring 
to corrupt the morals of your fellow-hordes- 
men with nefarious arts, and indecent conduct ? 
After living near twenty years in the school 
of Christ, are you not afraid to practise savage 
rites the most repugnant to Christian laws? 
Your manner of life is exactly suitable to the 
name of tiger, (he was called Yaguaret^, which 
means a tiger;) for by your deceits and in- 
decencies you tear the poor little sheep of 
Christ. Extreme age has conducted you to the 
goal of life ; — unless you repent, what a 
wretched death, and when dead what a sad 
fate awaits you ! I am equally ashamed and 
grieved on your account. He whom you be- 
hold dead on the cross for you," said I, showing 
him a crucifix, " will drive you headlong into 
hell, to punish your perfidy. Be what you 
appear, or appear what you are. Regulate your 
conduct according to divine law. But if 
savage superstitions are too firmly rooted in 
your breast to be ever eradicated, return in- 
stantly to the woods of the savages, to the dens 
of wild beasts where you first saw the light, 
that your example may not pervert the rest of 
your hordesmen, who have dedicated their 
lives to religion and virtue. Go, and repent of 
your former sins, and by penitence and inno- 
cence of life, cleanse away the stains of them. 

'i m 



If you do not instantly obey my friendly admo- 
nitions, it will be worse for you. Henceforward, 
you shall not go unpunished. Know, that as 
soon as ever I hear of any act of superstition or in- 
decencycommitted or attempted by you, at my or- 
ders you shall be led about the streets amidst the 
hisses of the people, and pelted with cow-dung, 
by a crowd of boys. Such is my firm determi- 
nation. This is the thyme and frankincense 
that shall be oiFered up to the stinking divinity, 
which you have madly dared to arrogate to 
yourself and suffered to be adored." This com- 
mination left the old fellow alarmed, and, if I 
mistake not, corrected, all good men highly ap- 
proving the severity of my speech. No sus- 
picions were ever after entertained of him, 
though I inspected all things with a vigilant 
eye and an attentive ear. 

As the jugglers perform the offices not only of 
soothsayers and physicians, but also of priests 
of the ceremonies of superstition, it exceeds 
belief what absurd opinions they inculcate into 
the ignorant minds of the Abipones. Out of 
many, I will mention a few. The Abipones 
think that none of their nation would ever die, 
were the Spaniards and the jugglers banished 
from America ; for they attribute every one's 
death, from whatever cause it may proceed, 

G 2 



■I ill 

I'M I. 'I 

either to the malicious arts of the one, or to the 
fire-arms of the other. If an Abipon die from 
being pierced with many wounds, or from hav- 
ing his bones broken, or his strength exhausted 
by extreme old age, his countrymen all deny 
that wounds or weakness occasioned his death, 
and anxiously try to discover by which of the 
jugglers, and for what reason he was killed. 
Because they have remembered some of their 
nation to have lived for a hundred years, they 
imagine that they would never die, were it not 
for the jugglers and the Spaniards. What ri- 
diculous ideas do not the Americans entertain 
respecting the eclipse of the sun and moon ! 
During the time it lasts, the Abipones fill the 
9,ir with horrid lamentations. They perpetually 
cry tayreta I oh ! the poor little thing ! grieving 
for the sun and moon : for when these planets 
are obscured, they always fear that they are 
entirely extinguished. Still more ridiculous 
are the Chiquito Indians, who say that the sun 
and moon are cruelly torn by dogs, with which 
they think that the air abounds, when they see 
their light fail ; attributing their blood red 
colour to the bites of these animals. Ac- 
cordingly, to defend their dear planets from 
those aerial mastiffs, they send a shower of ar- 
rows up into the sky, amid loud vociferations. 



at the time of the eclipse. But, who would 
believe that the Peruvian Indians, so much 
more civilized than the rest, should be foolish 
enough to imagine, that when the sun is ob- 
scured, he is angry, and turns away his face 
from them, on account of certain crimes which 
they have committed ? When the moon is in 
darkness, they say she is sick, and are in per- 
petual apprehension, that, when she dies, her 
immense carcass will fall down upon the earth 
and crush all the inhabitants. When she re- 
covers her light, they say she has been healed 
by Pachacamac, the Saviour of the world, who 
has prevented her death, that the earth may 
not be utterly crushed and destroyed by her 
weight. Other crazy notions are entertained by 
other Americans concerning eclipses. The 
Abipones call a comet 7ieyac, the Guaranies 
yacitata tatatibae, the smoking star: for what 
we name the hair, beard, or tail of a comet, they 
take to be smoke. This star is dreaded by all 
savages, being accounted the forerunner and in- 
strument of various calamities. The Peruvians 
have always believed the comet to portend the 
death of their kings, and the destruction of their 
provinces and kingdoms. Montezuma, monarch 
of the Mexicans, having frequently beheld a 
comet like a fiery pyramid, visible from mid- 
night till sun-set, was greatly alarmed for him- 

G 3 



;:' 'i' !:!■•; fi 


self and for his people, and shortly after con- 
quered and slain by Cortez. 

Let us now return to the superstitions of the 
Abipones, who think another star, the name of 
which I have forgotten, portentous, formidable, 
and destructive. They say that those years in 
which this star has been seen have always 
proved bloody and disastrous to their nation. 
When a whirlwind drives the dust round in a 
circle, the women throw ashes in its way, that 
it may be satisfied with that food, and may turn 
in some other direction. But if the wind rushes 
into any house with that impetuous whirling, 
they are certain that one of the inhabitants will 
die soon. If any live bees be found in the 
honey-comb, which they bring from the woods, 
they say that they must be killed out of doors, 
imagining, that if this be done within the house, 
they shall never be able to find any more honey. 

The 'Abipones labour under many supersti- 
tions, because they abound in jugglers, the 
teachers of superstition. The most famous at 
the time that I lived there, were Ilanetraln, 
Nahagalkin, Oaikin, Kaeperlahachin, Pazanoi- 
rin, Kaachi, Kepakainkin, Laamamiri, and Pa- 
riekaikin, the first, and by far the most eminent 
of them all, who had obtained a high reputation 
for his prophecies and other peculiarities of his 
office. Female jugglers abound to such a de- 






When you read that the Abipones take the 
devil for their grandfather, you may laugh with 
me at their folly, and behold their madness 
with pity and wonder, but, if you be wise, let 
all this be done in moderation, for still grosser 
errors have been entertained amongst many na- 
tions civilized by laws and arts both human 
and divine. If you do but look into history 
sacred or profane, you will allow that there is 
scarce any thing to which divine honours have 
not formerly been paid. Such madness and 
folly in many polished nations should so ex- 
haust our indignation and wonder as to make 
us judge mildly of the savage Abipones, edu- 
cated amongst wild beasts, and unacquainted 
with letters, if they simply dignify the evil 
spirit with the title of their grandfather, with- 
out giving him the name or honours of a divinity. 
During a seven-years' residence amongst the 
savages, I never discovered any thing of that 
nature. If secretly or in our absence they did 
any thing which a divine would condemn, I 



think it proceeded from no religious inclination 
towards the evil spirit, but only from fear of 
him, and from the compulsion used by the 
jugglers; so that they rather merit the imputa- 
tion of stupidity than of blasphemy. 

Not only the Abipones, but likewise the Mo- 
cobios, Tobas, Yapitalakas, Guaycurus and 
other equestrian people of Chaco, boast them- 
selves grandsons of the evil spirit, partakers no 
less of their superstition than of their madness. 
But how different are the opinions entertained 
by the southern equestrian tribes, who wander 
up and down the region of Magellan ! They are 
all acquainted with the devil, whom, they call 
Balichu. They believe that there is an innu- 
merable crowd of demons, the chief of whom 
they name El El, and all the inferior ones 
Quezubu. They think, however, every kind 
of demon hostile and mischievous to the human 
race, and the origin of all evil, regarding them 
in consequence with dread and abhorrence. 
The Puelches, Picunches, or Moluches, are un- 
acquainted even with the name of God. These 
la'st ascribe all the good things they either pos- 
sess or desire to the sun, and to the sun they 
pray for them. When a priest of our order 
told them that God, the creator of all things, 
and amongst the rest of the sun, should be. 
worshipped before the work of his own 



hands, they replied ; *' Till this hour, we 
never knew nor acknowledged any thing 
greater or better than the sun." The Pata- 
gonians call God Soychii, to wit, that which 
cannot be seen, which is worthy of all venera- 
tion, and which does not live in the world; 
hence they call the dead Soychuhet, men that 
dwell with God beyond the world. They seem 
to hold two principles in common with the 
Gnostics and Manichseans, for they say that 
God created both good and evil demons. The 
latter they greatly fear, but never worship. 
They believe every sick person to be possessed 
of an evil demon ; hence their physicians al- 
ways carry a drum with figures of devils 
painted on it, which they strike at the beds of 
sick persons, to drive the evil demon, which 
causes the disorder, from the body. The sa- 
vages of Chili are ignorant of the name and 
worship of God, but believe in a certain aerial 
spirit, called Pillan, to whom they address 
supplications that he will scatter their ene- 
mies, and thanksgiving, amidst their cups, after 
gaining a victory. Pillan is also their name for 
thunder, and they worship this deity chiefly 
when it thunders. The devil, which they call 
Alve^, they detest with their whole hearts. 
Hence, as they think life the best of all things, 
when any of them dies, they say that the evil 



spirit has taken him away. The Brazilians and 
Guaranies call the devil Aiiia, or Ananga, and 
fear him on account of a thousand noxious arts 
by which he is signalized. In Virginia, the 
savages call the devil Ok^, and pay him divine 
honours. Since numerous and neighbouring 
savages regard the devil with fear and contempt, 
I cannot imagine why the Abipones give him 
the affectionate and honourable appellation of 
their grandfather. But there is no need of rea- 
son and argument to induce the savages to em- 
brace the absurdest opinions, and to take what 
is doubtful for certain, what is false for perfectly 
true. The lies of a crafty juggler, the dreams 
of a foolish old woman, listened to with atten- 
tive ears, are more than enough to make them 
swear that the devil is their grandfather, or any 
thing still more absurd. 

Why they believe the Pleiades to be the re- 
presentation of their grandfather, remains to be 
discussed. On this subject also I can advance 
nothing but conjecture, nor can any thing cer- 
tain be derived either from the Abipones or 
from the historians of America. The seven 
daughters of Lycurgus were placed by Jove 
amongst the stars, because they educated Bac- 
chus in the island of Naxos, and distinguished 
by the name of Pleiades, as poets feign. What 
if we say that the Abipones, who are so fond 




11 'I 

of drinking-parties, worshipped those stars, 
because they were the nurses of Bacchus? 
But this pleasant idea would suit conversation 
better than history. It deserves attention, that, 
though various nations have paid divine honours 
to the sun, moon, and other stars, we cannot 
find a syllable respecting the worship of the 
Pleiades in any part of holy writ ; unless, in- 
deed, you say that they were adored by 
those nations mentioned in the 17th Chap, 
and the 3d verse of Deuteronomy : '' That they 
go and serve other Gods, and worship them, 
the sun and moon, and all the host of heaven." 
For, as St. Jerome observes, the '* whole host 
of heaven" means all the stars, including, of 
course, the Pleiades amongst the rest. 

After long and frequent consideration of these 
things, it appears most probable to my mind, 
that the savages of Paraguay derived the know- 
ledge and worship of the Pleiades from the 
ancient Peruvians ; who, although they vene- 
rated God the creator and preserver of all things, 
(under the name of Pachacamac,) are never- 
theless said to have adored the sea, rocks, trees, 
and, what is of most importance to the present 
subject, the Pleiades, whom they called Colca, 
The Inca Manco Capac, their ruler and chief 
lawgiver, afterwards substituted new super- 
stitions for old ones. He decreed, that di- 



vine honours should be paid to the sun. To it 
alone divine veneration and sacrifices were 
paid, though the moon also, which they call the 
consort of the sun, and certain stars, which they 
call the handmaids of the moon, were honoured 
with silver altars and adoration to a certain ex- 
tent, but inferior to that paid a divinity. 
Amongst the stars they thought the Pleiades 
worthy of a distinguished place, and chief 
honour, either from the wonderful manner in 
which they are placed, or from their singular 
brightness. After the Spaniards obtained do- 
minion over Peru by force of arms, it is cre- 
dible that the Peruvians, to avoid this dreadful 
slavery, stole away wherever they could, and 
that many of them migrated into the neigh- 
bouring Tucuman, and thence, for the sake of 
security, into the deserts of Chaco, close by ; 
where, amongst other superstitions they may 
have taught the inhabitants a religious obser- 
vance of the Pleiades. But since the Abipones, 
you will object, cannot even express the name 
of God in their native tongue, and respectfully 
address the evil spirit by the title of their 
grandfather, why did they not learn from the 
Peruvians the name and worship of God, with a 
hatred and contempt for the evil spirit ? The 
latter certainly entertained such a reverence for 
the God Pachacamac, that they thought it a 



nation, and used a separate language. In the 
last century, the Spaniards, whom they had 
gone out to slaughter, surprized them by the 
way, and almost destroyed them all. A few 
who survived the massacre, with the v^idows 
and children of the slain, joined the neighbour- 
ing Abipones, and both nations, by inter-mar- 
riages, coalesced into one ; the old language of 
the Yaaucanigas falling into disuse. The Abi- 
ponian tribes pursue the same manner of life, 
and their customs and language, with the ex- 
ception of a few words, are alike. Wondrous 
unanimity, and a constant alliance in arms, 
reigned amongst them as long as they had 
to deal with the Spaniards, against whom, as 
against a mutual foe, they bear an innate hatred, 
and whose servitude they resist with united 
strength. But though bound by the ties of 
consanguinity and friendship, impatient of the 
smallest injury, they eagerly seize on any occa- 
sion of war, and frequently weaken each other 
with mutual slaughter. 

Like the other American savages, some of the 
Abipones practise polygamy and divorce. Yet 
they are by no means numerous; the whole 
nation consisting of no more than five thou- 
sand people. Intestine skirmishes, excursions 
against the enemy, the deadly contagion of the 




measles and small-pox, and the cruelty of the 
mothers towards their offspring, have combined 
to render their number so small. Now learn 
the cause of this inhumanity in the women. 
The mothers suckle their children for three 
years, during which time they have no conjugal 
intercourse with their husbands, who, tired of 
this long delay, often marry another wife. The 
women, therefore, kill their unborn babes 
through fear of repudiation, sometimes getting 
rid of them by violent arts, without waiting for 
their birth. Afraid of being widows in the life- 
time of their husbands, they blush not to become 
more savage than tigresses. Mothers spare 
their female offspring more frequently than the 
males, because the sons, when grown up, are 
obliged to purchase a wife, whereas daughters, 
at an age to be married, may be sold to the 
bridegroom at almost any price. 

From all this you may easily guess that the 
Abiponian nations abound more in women 
than in men, both because female infants are 
seldomer killed by their mothers, because the 
women never fall in battle as is the case with 
the men, and because women are naturally 
longer lived than men. . Many writers make 
the mistake of attributing the present scanty 
population of America to the cruelty of the 
Spaniards, when they should rather accuse that 

VOL. ]T. 



I I"! 



nation, and used a separate language. In the 
last century, the Spaniards, whom they had 
gone out to slaughter, surprized them by the 
way, and almost destroyed them all. A few 
who survived the massacre, with the widows 
and children of the slain, joined the neighbour- 
ing Abipones, and both nations, by inter-mar- 
riages, coalesced into one ; the old language of 
the Yaaucanigas falling into disuse. The Abi- 
ponian tribes pursue the same manner of life, 
and their customs and language, with the ex- 
ception of a few words, are alike. Wondrous 
unanimity, and a constant alliance in arms, 
reigned amongst them as long as they had 
to deal with the Spaniards, against whom, as 
against a mutual foe, they bear an innate hatred, 
and whose servitude they resist with united 
strength. But though bound by the ties of 
consanguinity and friendship, impatient of the 
smallest injury, they eagerly seize on any occa- 
sion of war, and frequently weaken each other 
with mutual slaughter. 

Like the other American savages, some of the 
Abipones practise polygamy and divorce. Yet 
they are by no means numerous; the whole 
nation consisting of no more than five thou- 
sand people. Intestine skirmishes, excursions 
against the enemy, the deadly contagion of the 



measles and small-pox, and the cruelty of the 
mothers towards their offspring, have combined 
to render their number so small. Now learn 
the cause of this inhumanity in the women. 
The mothers suckle their children for three 
years, during which time they have no conjugal 
intercourse with their husbands, who, tired of 
this long delay, often marry another wife. The 
women, therefore, kill their unborn babes 
through fear of repudiation, sometimes getting 
rid of them by violent arts, without waiting for 
their birth. Afraid of being widows in the life- 
time of their husbands, they blush not to become 
more savage than tigresses. Mothers spare 
their female offspring more frequently than the 
males, because the sons, when grown up, are 
obliged to purchase a wife, whereas daughters, 
at an age to be married, may be sold to the 
bridegroom at almost any price. 

From all this you may easily guess that the 
Abiponian nations abound more in women 
than in men, both because female infants are 
seldomer killed by their mothers, because the 
women never fall in battle as is the case with 
the men, and because women are naturally 
longer lived than men. Many writers make 
the mistake of attributing the present scanty 
population of America to the cruelty of the 
Spaniards, when they should rather accuse that 






of the infanticide mothers. We, who have 
grown old amongst the Abipones, should pro- 
nounce her a singularly good woman who brings 
up two or three sons. But the whole Abipo- 
nian nation contains so few such mothers, that 
their names might all be inscribed on a ring. 
I have known some who killed all the children 
they bore, no one either preventing or avenging 
these murders. Such is the impunity with 
which crimes are committed when they become 
common, as if custom could excuse their im- 
piety. The mothers bewail their children, who 
die of a disease, with sincere tears ; yet they 
dash their new-born babes against the ground, 
or destroy them in some other way, with calm 
countenances. Europeans will scarce believe 
that such affection for their dead children can 
co-exist with such cruelty towards them while 
they are alive, but to us it is certain and in- 
dubitable. After our instructions, however, 
had engrafted a reverence for the divine law 
in the minds of the Abipones, the barbarity of 
the mothers gradually disappeared, and hus- 
bands, with joyful eyes, beheld their hands no 
longer stained with the blood of their offspring, 
but their arms laden with those dear pledges. 
These are the fruits and the triumphs of reli- 
gion, which fills not only Heaven but earth 
with inhabitants. When polygamy and di- 



vorce, the iniquitous murdering of infants, and 
the liberty of spontaneous abortion were at 
length, by means of Christian discipline, abo- 
lished, the nation of the Abipones, within a 
few years, rejoiced to see itself enriched with 
incredible accessions of both sexes. 

n 2 







The Abipones do not acknowledge any prince 
who reigns with supreme power over the whole 
nation. They are divided into hordes, each of 
which is headed by a man, whom the Spaniards 
call capitan, or cacique, the Peruvians curaca, 
the Guaranies aba rubicha, and the Abipones 
nelareyrat, or capita. This word capitan 
sounds very grand in the ears of the Americans. 
They think they are using a very honourable 
title when they call the God, or King of the 
Spaniards, capitan lathic, or capitan guazv, the 
great captain. By this word, indeed, they 
mean to designate not only supreme power, 
and eminent dignity, but also every kind of 
nobility. Sometimes miserable looking old 
women, wretchedly clothed, and rich only in 
wrinkles, to prevent us from thinking them of 
low birth, wdll say aym capita, I am a captain, I 
am noble. I was astonished at hearing the 
savages buried in the woods of Mbaevera, and 
cut off from all intercourse with the Spaniards, 
address their caciques by the names of Capita 



Roy, Capita Tupanchichu, Capita Veraripots- 
chiritu, neglecting their own word, aba rubicha; 
so universal and honourable is the title of cap- 
tain amongst the savage nations. Should an 
Abipon meet a Spaniard dressed very hand- 
somely, he would not hesitate to call him 
captain, though he might be of low rank, and 
distinguished by no dignity or nobility what- 
ever. Moreover, in Paraguay, Spaniards of 
the lowest rank, who live in the country, are 
extremely ambitious of the title of captain, and 
if you do not call them so every now and then, 
will look angry, and refuse to do you any kind 
of service, even to give you a drop of water if 
you are ever so thirsty. The Christian Gua- 
ranies have the same foolish mania for titles. 
After having laboured hard for two or three 
years in the royal camps, they think themselves 
amply repaid for their toils and wounds, if, at 
the end of the expedition, they return to their 
colony honoured by the royal governour with 
the title and staff of a captain. At all times 
even when employed, barefoot, in building or 
agriculture, they ostentatiously hold the cap- 
tain's staff in their hands. When they are 
carried to the grave, this wooden ensign is sus- 
pended from the bier. When a man is at the 
point of death, and just going to receive extreme 
unction, he puts on his military boots and 

H 3 


1 ii, '1- 

1 ,:,'!■' 



Spurs, takes his staff in his hand, and in this 
trim awaits the priest, and even approaching 
death, as if in the intent of frightening the grim 
spectre away. On the domestics' expressing 
their surprize at the unusual attire of the dying 
man, he sternly and gravely observes, that this 
is the manner in which it becomes a captain to 
die. Such is the signification and the honour 
attached to the word captain in America. 

Amongst the Guaranies, who have embraced 
the Christian religion, in various colonies, the 
name and office of cacique is hereditary. When 
a cacique dies, his eldest son succeeds without 
dispute, whatever his talents or disposition may 
be. Amongst the Abipones, too, the eldest 
son succeeds, but only provided that he be of 
a good character, of a noble and warlike dis- 
position, in short, fit for the office ; for if he 
be indolent, ill-natured, and foolish in his con- 
duct, he is set aside, and another substituted, 
who is not related to the former by any tie of 
blood. But to say the truth, the cacique 
elected by the Abipones has no cause for pride, 
nor he that is rejected for grief and envy. The 
name of cacique is certainly a high title amongst 
the Abipones, but it is more a burden than an 
honour, and often brings with it greater danger 
than profit. For they neither revere their 
cacique as a master, nor pay him tribute or 

■ :l'l .llilV 



attendance as is usual with other nations. 
They invest him neither with the authority of a 
judge, an arbitrator, or an avenger. Drunken 
men frequently kill one another; women quarrel, 
and often imbrue their hands in one another's 
blood ; young men, fond of glory or booty, rob 
the Spaniards, to whom they had promised 
peace, of whole droves of horses, and sometimes 
secretly slay them : and the cacique, though 
aware of all these things, dares not say a 
word. If he were but to rebuke them for these 
transgressions, which are reckoned amongst 
the merits, virtues, and victories of the savages, 
with a single harsh word, he would be punished 
in the next drinking-party with the fists of the 
intoxicated savages, and publicly loaded with 
insults, as a friend to the Spaniards, and a 
greater lover of ease than of his people. How 
often have Ychamenraikin, chief cacique of the 
Riikahes, and Nar^, of the Yaaucanigas, expe- 
rienced this! How often have they returned 
from a drinking-party with swelled eyes, bruised 
hands, pale cheeks, and faces exhibiting all the 
colours of the rainbow ! 

But although the Abipones neither fear their 
cacique as a judge, nor honour him as a master, 
yet his fellow-soldiers follow him as a leader 
and governour of the war, whenever the enemy 
is to be attacked or repelled. Some, however, 

H 4 




refuse to follow him, for what Caesar said 
of the German chiefs is applicable to the Abi- 
ponian cacique : Authoritate suadendi magis, quam 
jubendi potest ate audiatur. As soon as a report 
is spread of the danger of an hostile attack, the 
business of the cacique is to provide for the se- 
curity of his people ; to increase the store of 
weapons ; to order the horses to be fetched 
from the distant pastures to safer places ; to 
send out watchers by night, and scouts in every 
direction, to procure supplies from the neigh- 
bours, and to gain their alliance. When the 
enemy is to be attacked, he rides before his 
men, and occupies the front of the army he has 
raised, less solicitous about the numbers of the 
enemy, than the firmness of his troops : for as 
with birds, when one is shot, the rest fly away, 
in like manner the Abipones, alarmed at the 
deaths or wounds of a few of their fellow- 
soldiers, desert their leader, and escape on swift 
horses, wherever room for flight is aflbrded 
them, more anxious about their own safety than 
about obtaining a victory. Yet it must be ac- 
knowledged that this nation never wants its 
heroes. Many remain intrepid whilst their 
companions fall around them, and though pierced 
with wounds and streaming with blood, retain 
even in death the station where they fought. 
Desire of glory, ferocious study of revenge, or 



despair of escape, inspires the naturally fearful 
with courage, which a Lacedemonian would 
admire, and which Europe desires to see in 
her warriors. 

Moreover, being lovers of liberty and roving, 
they choose to own no law, and bind themselves 
to their cacique by no oaths of fidelity. With- 
out leave asked on their part, or displeasure 
evinced on his, they remove with their families 
whithersoever it suits them, and join some other 
cacique ; and when tired of the second, return 
with impunity to the horde of the first. This is 
quite common, and a matter of surprize to no 
one that knows how fleeting is the faith, how 
mutable the will of the Indians. Should a re- 
port be spread by uncertain or suspicious au- 
thors, that the enemy are coming in a few days, 
it is enough. Numbers, dreading the loss of life 
more than of fame, will desert their cacique, and 
hasten with their families to some well-known 
retreats. Lest however they should be branded 
with the name of deserters and cowards, they 
say they are going out to hunt. Hence, when- 
ever we priests had to defend the new colonies 
filled with savage assailants, and almost desti- 
tute of inhabitants to repel them, we generally 
made more use of craft and threats than of force. 
The danger, or the fear of it, being dissipated, 
these fugacious heroes at length came home, no 



one daring to accuse them of cowardice, though 
no one could be ignorant that fear prompted 
their departure, security their return. 

Whenever a cacique determines upon un- 
dertaking an excursion, a public drinking- 
party is appointed. Heated with that luscious 
beverage, prepared from honey or the alfaroba, 
they zealously offer their services to the cacique, 
who invites them to war, sing triumph before 
the victory with festive vociferations, and, (who 
would believe it?) diligently execute when 
sober, what they promised in a state of intoxi- 
cation. That love is kindled by love, as fire by 
fire, and that friends are gained by liberality, 
are trite proverbs in Europe, and have been ex- 
perienced by us in our long commerce with the 
Abipones. A cacique who seldom gives a re- 
pulse will have numerous, obedient, and af- 
fectionate hordesmen. Kind words or looks, 
the marks of good-will, avail but little amongst 
the savages, unless accompanied with bene- 
ficence. They require at the cacique's hands 
whatever they take it into their heads to wish 
for, believing that his office obliges him to sa- 
tisfy the petitions of all. If he denies them any 
thing, they say he is not a captain, or noble, and 
insolently bestow upon him the disgraceful ap- 
pellation of wood-Indian — Acami Lanaraik. 
The cacique has nothing, either in his arms or his 



clothes, to distinguish him from a common man, 
except the peculiar oldness and shabbiness of 
them ; for if he appear in the street with new 
and handsome apparel, just taken out of his 
wife's loom, the first person he meets will boldly 
cry. Give me that dress, Tach caue grihilalgi ; 
and unless he immediately parts with it, he be- 
comes the scoff and the scorn of all, and hears 
himself called covetous and niggardly. Some- 
times, when they came to ask a great favour of 
me, they would stroke my shoulder, and say in 
a sweet tone. You are indeed a captain. Father ; 
by which honourable appellation they wished me 
to understand that it was unlike a captain to 
refuse a man any thing. As those things which 
they asked me for were not always in my 
possession, nor could indeed be found in any 
shop at Amsterdam, I told them I was no cap- 
tain, that they might bear a refusal with good 
humour, and attribute it to poverty, not to ill- 
nature. But it was all in vain. They construe 
a Father's excuse into a falsehood, and exclaim, 
not without much laughter on both sides, What 
a liar, what a miser you are ! I found that those 
caciques had abundance of followers who were 
active and successful in the acquirement of 
booty, free from sordid avarice, and fond of dis- 
playing an unbounded liberality towards their 
hordesmen. Kaapetraikin and Kebachin had 




crowds of soldiers in their service, because they 
were distinguished for dexterity and assiduity 
in depredation ; the same men, when decrepit 
with extreme age, inadequate to undertaking 
excursions, and consequently poor, found none 
but relations continue in their hordes. 

I must not omit to mention that the Abipones 
do not scorn to be governed by women of noble 
birth ; for at the time that I resided in Para- 
guay, there was a high-born matron, to whom 
the Abipones gave the title of Nelareycath, and 
who numbered some families in her horde. Her 
origin, and the merits of her ancestors, procured 
her the veneration of others. The Catholic 
kings themselves, and their governours, ac- 
knowledge the rank of the caciques of every 
nation, and dignify them with the title of nobi- " 
lity, prefixing the word Bon to their names, 
according to the Spanish fashion. It is also 
customary, throughout the whole of Spanish 
America, for the Indian caciques, after they 
have received baptism, and sworn allegiance 
to the Catholic king, to retain, and trans- 
mit to their posterity the dominion they 
possessed when savage, over the savages sub- 
ject to their power: which is also observed 
amongst the Guaranies, with this provision, 
however, that the caciques themselves and the 
Indians under their authority, are obliged to 



obey the corregidor, and other magistrates 
of the town. In every Guarany town, there 
are a number of caciques, who, if men of abi- 
lities, are often promoted to the office of magis- 
trates, that the Indians may not suspect the 
Europeans of despising their nobility. There 
were five caciques in the town of St. Joachim, 
over which I presided. Their names were 
Don Ignatius Paranderi, Don Miguel Yeyu, 
Don Marco Quirakera, Don Joseph Xavier, and 
Don Miguel Yazuka; which last performed 
the office of corregidor for many years. Though 
a native of the woods, he was both exceedingly 
attached to Christian discipline, and intrepid 
in guarding it ; indeed he was above all praise ; 
which is certainly very uncommon and won- 
derful, as, to say the truth, we have often 
found the caciques more stupid than the com- 
mon people, and less skilful in the public em- 
ployments of the town. Who, therefore, can 
blame the Abipones, if, setting aside the privi- 
lege of birth, they elect a cacique, who, though 
of obscure origin, is distinguished for military 
valour ? 





The wild Abipones live like wild beasts. They 
neither sow nor reap, nor take any heed of 
agriculture. Taught by natural instinct, the 
instructions of their ancestors, and their own 
experience, they are acquainted with all the 
productions of the earth and the trees, at what 
part of the year they spontaneously grow, what 
animals are to be found in what places, and 
what arts are to be employed in taking them. 
All things are in common with them. They 
have no proprietors, as with us, of lands, rivers, 
and groves, who possess the exclusive right of 
hunting, fishing, and gathering wood there. 
Whatever flies in the air, swims in the water, 
and grows wild in the woods, may become the 
property of the first person that chooses to take 
it. The Abipones are unacquainted with spades, 
ploughs, and axes; the arrow, the spear, the 
club, and horses, are the only instruments they 
make use of in procuring food, clothing, and 
habitation. As all lands do not bear all things, 
and as various productions grow at various 

' ■ '. ■::;.;'!! 

'■ - -H,-- — r»- 



times of the year, they cannot continue long in 
one situation. They remove from place to 
place, wherever they can most readily satisfy 
the demands of hunger and thirst. The plains 
abound in emus, and their numerous eggs, 
in deer, tigers, lions, various kinds of rab- 
bits, and other small animals peculiar to 
America, and also in flocks of partridges. 
Numbers of stags, exactly like those of our 
country, frequent the banks of the larger rivers. 
Innumerable herds of wild boars are almost 
constantly to be seen in marshy places, which 
they delight in, in the neighbourhood of a 
wood. The groves, besides antas, and taman- 
duas, contain swarms of monkeys and parrots. 
The lakes and rivers, which abound in fish, 
produce water-wolves, water-dogs, capibaris, 
innumerable otters, and flocks of geese and 
ducks. I do not mention the great multi- 
tude of tortoises, as neither the Abipones nor 
Spaniards eat them in Paraguay. At stated 
times of the year, they collect quantities of 
young cormorants, on the banks of rivers, and 
reckon them amongst the delicacies of the 
table. Were none of these things to be pro- 
cured, tree fruits and hives of excellent honey 
would never be wanting. The various species 
of palms alone will supply meat, drink, medi-; 
cine, habitation, clothes, arms, and what not,^ 



If I 

to those that are in need. Under the earth, 
and even under the water, grow esculent roots. 
Two species of the alfaroba, commonly called 
St. John's bread, throughout great part of the 
year, produce extremely wholesome, and by no 
means unsavoury food, both meat and drink. 
See the munificence of God even towards those 
by whom he is not worshipped ! Behold a rude 
image of the golden age ! The Abipones have 
it in their power to procure all the appurte- 
nances of daily life, with little or no labour, 
and though unacquainted with money of every 
kind, are commodiously supplied with all 
necessaries ; for if a long drought have exhaust- 
ed the rivers, they will find water even in the 
most desert plains, under the leaves of the 
caraquata, or they can suck little apples, which 
are full of a watery liquor like melons, and grow 
under the earth, or dig a well in the channel of 
a dried-up river, and see water sufficient for 
themselves and their horses spring up from 
thence. A Spaniard, in the wilds of America, 
will pine with thirst, either from being ignorant 
of these things, or impatient of the labour of 
obtaining them. 

As the supports of life are not all found col- 
lected together in one place, nor will suffice for 
a long time, or a great number of hordesmen, the 
Abipones are obliged to change their residence, 



and travel about continually. Neither rugged 
roads, nor distances of places, prevent them 
from a journey; for both men and women 
travel on horses which are swift and numerous 
there, and if they are in haste, traverse vast 
tracts of land every day. I shall now describe 
the equipment of the horse, and the method of 
riding. Tlie bit which they use is composed of 
a cow's horn fastened on each side to four little 
pieces of wood placed transversely, and to a 
double thong which supplies the place of a 
bridle. Some use iron bits, of which they 
are very proud. The major part have sad- 
dles like English ones, of a raw bull's hide 
stuffed with reeds. Stirrups are not in general 
use. The men leap on to their horse on the 
right side. With the right hand they grasp 
the bridle, with the left a very long spear, 
leaning upon which they jump up with the 
impulse of both feet, and then fall right upon 
the horse's back. The same expedition in dis- 
mounting, w^hich would excite the admiration 
of a European, is very useful to them in skir- 
mishes. They use no spurs even at this day. 
For a whip, they make use of four strips of a 
bull's hide twisted together, with which they 
stimulate new or refractory horses to the course, 
not by the sense of pain, but by the • fear 
excited by the cracking of the whip ^ . The 

VOL. II. ' I- ' .. . : i c :" 



saddles used by the women are the same as 
those of the men, except that the former, more 
studious of external elegance, have theirs 
made of the skin of a white cow. When 
an Abiponian woman wants to mount her horse, 
she throws herself up to the middle upon its 
neck, like men in Europe, and then separating 
her feet on both sides, places herself in the 
saddle, which has no cushion; nor does the 
hardness of it oifend her in journeys of many 
days ; from which you may perceive that the 
skin of the Abipones is harder than leather, 
being rendered callous by their constantly 
riding without a cushion. Indians who ride 
much and long without saddles, frequently hurt 
and wound the horse's back, without receiving 
any injury themselves. I will now describe 
their manner of travelling when they remove 
from one place to another. The wife, besides 
her husband's bow and quiver, carries all the 
domestic furniture, all the pots, gourds, jugs, 
shells, balls of woollen and linen thread, wea- 
ving instruments, &c. These things are con- 
tained in boar-skin bags, suspended here and 
there from the saddle; where she also places 
the whelps, and her young infant if she have 
one. Besides these things, she suspends from 
the sides of the saddle a large mat, with two 
poles, to fix a tent wherever they like, and a 
bull's hide to serve for a boat in crossing rivers. 



No woman will set out on a journey without 
a stake like a palm branch, broad at each side 
and slender in the middle, made of very hard 
wood, and about two ells long, which serves 
admirably for digging eatable roots, knocking 
down fruits from trees, and dry boughs for 
lighting a fire, and even for breaking the heads 
and arms of enemies, if they meet any by the 
way. With this luggage, which you would 
tliink a camel could hardly carry, are the 
women's horses loaded in every journey. But 
this is not all. You often see two or three wo- 
men or girls seated on one horse : not from any 
scarcity of beasts, all having plenty, but because 
they are sworn enemies to solitude and silence. 
As fevf horses will bear more than one rider, 
unless accustomed to it, they immediately throw 
the female trio, but generally without doing 
them any injury, except that these Amazons, 
when seen sprawling like snails upon the ground, 
excite the mirth of the spectators, and amidst 
mutual laughter, try to scramble again on to 
the rustic steed, as often as they are thrown off. 
The company of women is attended by a 
vast number of dogs. As soon as they are 
mounted, they all look round, and if one be 
missing out of the many which they keep, 
begin to call him with their usual nh nh 
nK repeated as loud as possible a hundred 




N ';:;;:, .11 ! 

times, till at last they see them all assembled; 
I often wondered how, without being able to 
count, they could so instantly tell if one were 
missing out of so large a pack. Nor should 
they be • censured for their anxiety about their 
dogs ; for these animals, in travelling, serve as 
purveyors, being employed, like hounds, to hunt 
deer, otters, and emus. It is chiefly on this 
account that every family keeps a great number 
of dogs, which are supported without any 
trouble ; plenty of provender being always sup- 
plied by the heads, hearts, livers, and entrails 
of the slaughtered cattle ; which, though made 
use of by Europeans, are rejected by the sa- 
vages. The fecundity of these animals in Para- 
guay corresponds to the abundance of victuals. 
They scarce ever bring forth fewer than twelve 
puppies at a birth. When the period of par- 
turition draws nigh, they dig a very deep 
burrow, furnished with a narrow opening, and 
therein securely deposit their young. The 
descent is so artfully contrived with turnings 
and windings, that, however rainy the weather 
may be, no water can penetrate to this sub- 
terranean cave. The mother comes out every 
day to get food and drink, when she moans and 
wags her tail as if to excuse her absence to her 
master ; at length, at the end of many days, 
she shows her whelps abroad, though she cer- 



tainly cannot boast of their beauty : for the 
Indian dogs have no elegance of form, they are 
generally middle-sized, and of various colours, 
as vs^ith us. They are neither so small as the 
dogs of Malta and Bologna, nor so large as 
mastiffs. You never see any of those shaggy 
curly dogs, which are so fond of the water, and 
so docile, except amongst the Spaniards, who 
have them sent over in European ships. But 
though the Indian dogs do not excel in beauty, 
they are by no means inferior to those of Eu- 
rope in quickness of scent, in activity, vigi- 
lance, and sincere affection for their masters. 
In every Abiponian colony, some hundred dogs 
keep continual watch, and by the terrible howl- 
ing and barking which they nightly utter in 
chorus, at the slightest motion, perpetually 
disturbed our sleep, but never secured us from 
being surprized by the enemy; a troop of whom 
would often steal into the colony, whilst the 
whole of the dogs maintained a profound silence. 
Yet none of the Abipones ever blamed them, 
foolishly imagining them bewitched by the magic 
arts of the enemy's jugglers. It may be rec- 
koned amongst the blessings of Paraguay, that 
it is unacquainted with madness in dogs, or any 
kind of cattle, and that hydrophobia is unknown 
here. This must be accounted a singular benefit 
of Providence, and one of the wonders of nature 

1 3 



in a country where beasts are frequently distress- 
ed both with the burning heat of heaven, and 
with long thirst, for want of water, which is not 
to be got for many leagues. But let us now take 
leave of the female riders, and of the dogs that 
accompany them, and direct our attention to 
the Abipones, their husbands. 

The luggage being all committed to the 
women, the Abipones travel armed with a 
spear alone, that they may be disengaged to 
fight or hunt, if occasion require. If they spy 
any emus, deer, stags, boars, or other wild 
animals, they pursue them with swift horses, and 
kill them with a spear. If they can meet with 
nothing fit to kill and eat, they set fire to the 
plain which is covered with tall dry grass, and 
force the animals, concealed underneath, to 
leap out by crowds, and in flying from the fire 
to fall into the cruel hands of the Indians, who 
kill them with wood, iron, or a string, and 
afterwards roast them. Should every thing 
else be wanting, the plains abound in rabbits, 
to afibrd a breakfast, dinner, or supper. To 
strike fire, they have no occasion for either 
flint or steel, the place of which is supplied by 
pieces of wood, about a span long, one of which 
is soft, the other hard. The first, which is a 
little pierced in the middle, is placed under- 
neath ; the harder wood, which has a point 




like an acorn, is applied to the bole of the softer, 
and whirled quickly round with both hands. By 
this mutual and quick attrition of both woods, 
a little dust is rubbed off which at the same 
moment catches fire and emits smoke ; to this 
the Indians apply straw, cow-dung, dry leaves, 
&c. for fuel. The soft wood used for this purpose 
is taken either from the tree ambay, from the 
shrub caraquata, or from the cedar; but the 
harder, which they whirl round with the hand, 
comes from the tree tatayi, which affords a 
saffron-coloured wood, as hard as box, and fit 
for dying clothes yellow, together with mul- 
berries very like those of our own country. 

Whenever they think fit to sleep at noon, or 
pass the night by the way, they anxiously look 
out for some place affording an opportunity of 
water, wood, and pasture. If there arise any 
suspicion of a hostile ambuscade, they hide 
themselves in lurking holes, rendered inacces- 
sible by the nature of the place. You would 
say that they and their families are at home, 
wherever they go, for they carry about mats to 
serve for a house, as a snail does its shell. Two 
poles are fixed into the ground, and to them is 
tied a mat, twice or thrice folded to exclude the 
wind and rain. That the ground upon which 
they lie may not be wetted by a heavy shower, 
they providently dig a little channel at the side 





of their tent, that the waters may flow ofF, and 
be carried elsewhere. They generally send a 
tame mare with a bell about her neck to a drove " 
of horses, when they are sent to pasture; for 
they will never go out of sight of her, and if 
dispersed up and down the plain, through fear 
of a tiger, return to her as to their mother ; on 
which account the Spaniards call this mare la 
madrina, and the Abipones,^ lath, which means a 
mother. For the same reason, on a few of the 
horses they place shackles of soft leather, that 
they may crop the grass without wandering far 
from the tent, and be at hand, if it be found ne- 
cessary to travel in the night. Not only the 
men, but even very young women cross rivers 
without ford, bridge, or boat, by swimming. 
The children, the saddles, and other luggage 
are sent over on a bull's hide, called by the 
Abipones, natal, and by the Spaniards, la 
pelota, and generally made use of in crossing 
the smaller rivers. I will describe the rude 
structure of it. A hairy, raw, and entirely un- 
dressed hide is made almost square, by having 
the extremities of the feet and neck cut off. 
The four sides are raised like a hat, to the 
height of about two spans, and each is tied with 
a thong, that they may remain erect, and pre- 
serve their squareness of form. At the bottom 
of the pelota, the saddles and other luggage are 



thrown by way of ballast, in the midst of which 
the person that is to cross the river, sits, taking- 
care to preserve his balance. Into a hole in 
the side of the pelota, they insert a thong in- 
stead of a rope, which a person, swimming, lays 
hold of with his teeth and with one hand, 
whilst he uses the other for an oar, and thus 
gently draws the pelota along the river, with- 
out shaking or endangering the person within 
in the least, though a high wind may have 
greatly agitated the waves. If the coldness of 
the water cramps the man that drags the pelota, 
so that he is disenabled from swimming, and 
would otherwise be drowned, he will be carried 
safely along with the pelota to the opposite 
bank, by the force of the waves. If rivers of a 
wider channel and a more rapid stream are to 
be crossed, the swimmer holds the tail of the 
horse, which swims before, with one hand, to 
support himself, and drags the pelota with the 
other. In so many and such long journies, I 
practised this sort of navigation almost daily, 
and not unfrequently repeated it often on the 
same day. At first it appeared very formi- 
dable and dangerous to me. But instructed by 
frequent practice, I have often laughed at my- 
self and my imaginary danger, and always pre- 
ferred a hide in crossing a river, to a tottering 
skiff or boat, which is constantly liable to be 




overturned. If many days' rain has wetted the 
hide, and made it as soft as linen, boughs of 
trees are placed under the four sides, and the 
bottom of the pelota, which supports the hide, 
and strengthens it to cross the river in safety. 
American captains of Spanish soldiers will not 
swim, although they know how, that they may 
not be obliged to strip before their men. To 
reach, therefore, the opposite shore, they sit 
upon a pelota, which, scorning the assistance 
of another person, they impel forwards by two 
forked boughs for oars. 

The Abipones enter even the larger rivers on 
horseback: but when the ford begins to fail, 
they leap from their horse into the water. With 
their right hand they hold the reins of the horse, 
and row with the same; in their left they 
grasp a very wide spear, at the end of which 
they suspend their clothes in the air, that they 
may not be wetted. Every now and then they 
give the horse a blow, if he suffers himself to be 
carried down with the stream, to bring him back 
to the right course, and make him strain to the 
appointed part of the opposite shore, which 
should be neither marshy nor weedy, nor of a 
very high bank, so that it may afford an easy 
ascent. It was laughable to see the crowds of 
savages swimming at my side, with nothing but 
their heads above water, yet conversing as plea^ 



santly as others would on the green turf. How 
often have I crossed those tremendous rivers 
sitting on a hide in the midst of them ! You 
would have called them so many Neptunes, so 
familiar were they with the water. Their bold- 
ness exceeds the belief of Europeans. When- 
ever they had a mind to go from St. Ferdinand 
to Corrientes, they swam across that vast sea, 
which is composed of the united streams of the 
great Paraguay and the great Parana, with 
their horses swimming beside them, to the great 
astonishment of the Spaniards : for in this part 
the river is formidable to ships even, from 
its width, depth, and incredible rapidity, and 
often filled myself and my companions with 
terror when we sailed upon it, whilst I resided 
in that colony. Formerly those savage plun- 
derers, whenever they hastened home with a 
great number of beasts taken from the Spa- 
niards, prudently crossed this immense river 
towards the South, going from island to island ; 
by which means they had time to recruit them- 
selves and their beasts, after the fatigue of 
swimming, in each of the islands. It will be 
worth while to describe the manner in which 
many thousands of horses, mules, and oxen, are 
sent across great rivers to the opposite shore. 
The herd of beasts is not all driven by one 
person, but divided into companies, each of 



which is inclosed behind and on both sides, by 
men on horseback, to keep them from running 
away : to prevent which, some erect two 
hedges, wider at the beginning, and narrower 
at the shore itself, through which the beasts are 
driven, so that more than two or three cannot 
enter the river at a time. The tame oxen and 
horses are sent first into the water, and the 
wild ones follow without delay. Great care 
must be taken, that they be not deprived of the 
power of swimming, by being too much 
crowded. Behind and on both sides the beasts 
are watched by Indians, either swimming, or 
conveyed in a little bark, that they may make 
straight for the opposite shore : for when left 
alone, they suffer themselves to be carried 
down by the stream, and float to those places 
which forbid all access, on account of the high 
banks, marshes, or trees, by which they are 
impeded. If an ox or a horse be whirled round 
in swimming, it will be sucked up by the water, 
unable to exert itself any longer. To prevent 
this, the Abipones, even in the midst of the 
river, mount those oxen, that are either sluggish 
or refractory, and taking hold of their horns 
with both hands, sit upon their backs, striking 
their sides with both feet, till, in spite of them- 
selves, they are guided to the opposite shore. 
When arrived at land, fear gives way to rage. 



and they attack every thing that comes in their 
way, with their threatening horns. You will 
hardly believe that I always found fierce bulls 
less dexterous in crossing rivers, than cows, 
which, on account of the greater timidity of 
their nature, are more obedient to the driver, 
and strain more eagerly to the shore. Oxen 
tied by the horns to a tolerably large boat 
often swim across in perfect security : for as 
the heads of the animals are suspended on 
each side the boat, their bodies scarcely find 
any difficulty in swimming. In this manner I 
sent twenty oxen at a time from the estate, to 
the colony of the Rosary, across the river Para- 
guay. More or fewer oxen may be tied to the 
bark, according to the size of it. Sometimes 
the herd of beasts is surrounded by long barks 
or skiffs on every side, lest, when weary 
of swimming, they should float down with the 
stream, and wander from that part of the 
shore that had been fixed on for their ascent. 
But the Abipones, not needing these precau- 
tions of the Spaniards, could successfully tran- 
sport crowds of swimming oxen across any 
rivers, themselves swimming beside them. This 
expertness of the Abipones in swimming across 
rivers, I have long desired to see in European 
armies, which are often prevented from attack- 
ing the enemy, by the intervention of some 



large river, though every thing conspired to 
yield them an easy victory, if the soldiers could 
cross the river by swimming, without the noise 
of bridges or boats. But, alas! out of a nu- 
merous army, how few are able to swim ! Much 
service has indeed been rendered the Austrian 
camp, by the Croatian forces, who, not waiting 
for boats or bridges, have so often surprized the 
enemy on the opposite shore, apprehending no 



Those persons are egregiously mistaken, who 
imagine that all the Americans, without distinc- 
tion, wear no other clothes than those in which 
they were born. This error seems to have 
arisen from the misrepresentations of pictures 
or engravings, in which every American Indian 
is pourtrayed like a hairy Satyr, or like one of 
the Cyclops, Brontes, or Steropes, or naked 
Pyracmon. I do not deny that there do exist 
in America nations entirely destitute of cloth- 
ing ; but that this nakedness is common to them 
all, is very far from being true. The Payaguas 
are abominated by the other Indians, because 
they are unacquainted with dress and with 
modesty. They think themselves elegantly 
attired when they are painted with various 
colours from head to foot, and loaded with glass 
beads. We found that the Mbayas had plenty 
of clothes, but made a bad use of them : for 
they cover those parts of the body which may 
safely be exposed to the eyes of all, and bare 
those which modesty commands to be con- 



'!:.■;: .1 

I: t 

cealed. The Abipones, when I asked them 
their opinion of the Mbayas, said they thought 
them like dogs, because they were as impudent. 
My companions too, who dwelt amongst them, 
complained much to me of their shamelessness 
and public indecencies. The women, however, 
of both nations wear that desrree of clothino- 
which modesty requires. In the woods called 
Mbaevera, or Mborebireta, the country of the 
antas, I found the men clothed up to the 
middle with a thin veil, and naked every where 
else; but the female Indians are decently clothed 
from the shoulders to the heels, with a white 
cloth which they weave themselves. I observed 
the same amongst the wood-Indians who wan- 
der on the shores of the Tapiraguay and the 
Yeyuy, crowds of whom were brought by the 
Jesuits to the new colony of St. Stanislaus. An 
old Indian woman and her daughter fifteen years 
of age, whom I found in the woods betwixt the 
rivers Monday and Empalado, wore nothing but 
a net woven of the hemp caraquata, in which 
they slept at night, so that the same dress, 
which was certainly too transparent, served 
them both for bed and clothing. 
■ I can truly say of the Abipones, that whilst 
they were in a state of barbarism, and roamed 
up and down like brutes, they were all decently, 
and, in their fashion, elegantly clothed. They 




will not suffer a female infant, a few months 
old even, to remain naked. We have often 
vainly desired to see this decency imitated by 
the Spaniards in Paraguay, especially those of 
the cities Asumpcion and Corrientes. How 
often do grown women allege the excessive 
heat of the sun as an excuse for throwing off 
their clothes, without the least regard to mo- 
desty, in the public street ! For this they are 
frequently reprehended by preachers, both in 
public and private. Do you wish to be made 
acquainted with the kind of clothing which the 
Abipones wear? They use a square piece of 
linen, without any alteration, or addition of 
sleeves, thrown over their shoulders, tying one 
end of it to the left arm, and leaving the right 
disengaged. They confine this woollen gar- 
ment, which displays various colours, and flows 
from the shoulders to the heels, with a woollen 
girth. In leaping on to a horse they keep back 
their dress with their knees, that they may not 
be quite bare : for they know of no such things 
as shoes, stockings, or drawers, and are for that 
reason better prepared to swim rivers, and ride 
on horseback. Besides this vest which I have 
described, they throw another square piece of 
linen over their shoulders, by way of a cloak, 
which, tied in a knot under the neck, both de- 
fends them against the cold, and gives them a 





S i;a Li'! 

respectable appearance. When they are hew- 
ing down a tree, and are afraid of being fatigued, 
they will sometimes throw off their clothes, if 
they be out of sight. Some strip themselves 
quite naked when they are going to join battle 
with the savages, partly that, being lighter, they 
may be so much the more expeditious in avoid- 
ing their adversaries' weapons, partly, that they 
may appear to despise wounds. In long jour- 
nies, they generally go bareheaded amidst rain, 
heat, and wind. Some, however, tie a piece of 
red woollen cloth round their forehead, which 
is a great defence against the heat of the sun 
and pains in the head. They greatly prize a 
European hat, especially the young men, who 
likewise are much delighted with Spanish 
saddles, with spurs, and iron bridles. The wo- 
men wear the same dress as the men, adjusted 
in rather a different manner. 

The clothing of the Abipones is the chief em- 
ployment of the women, who are commendable 
for their assiduity, and almost avidity in labour: 
for not to mention the daily business of the 
house, they shear sheep, spin the wool very 
neatly, dye it beautifully, by the aid of alum, 
with any colours they may have at hand, and 
afterwards weave it into cloth, adorned with a 
great number of lines and figures, and with a 
variety of colours. You would take it for a 



Turkey carpet, worthy of noblemen's houses in 
Europe. The loom and the instruments of 
which it consists are confined to a few reeds 
and sticks. The American women seem to have 
a natural talent for making various useful ar- 
ticles. They can mould pots and jugs of various 
forms of clay, not with the assistance of a turn- 
ing machine, like potters, but with their hands 
alone. These clay vessels they bake, not in an 
oven, but out of doors, placing sticks round 
them. They cannot gla^e them with lead, but 
they first dye them of a red colour, and then 
rub them with a kind of glue to make them 
shine. There is never any snow, and very 
little frost, in the region inhabited by the Abi- 
pones : but when the South wind blows hard^ 
the air becomes very piercing, and sometimes 
intolerably so to persons thinly clad. The 
Abipones shield themselves from the cold with 
a cloak made of otters' skins. This garment, 
which is likewise square, is laboriously and ele- 
gantly made by the women : whose business 
it is to strip off the skins of the otters, after they 
have been caught by dogs, and then fix them 
to the ground with very slender pegs, that they 
may not wrinkle. After being dried, they are 
painted red, in square lines like a dice box. 
The Indian women cannot dress hides like cur- 





riers, but after having well rubbed and softened 
them with their hands, they sew them with a 
very thin thread, with so much skill, that the 
seams escape the quickest eye, and the whole 
cloak looks like one skin. For needles they 
use very small thorns, with which they pierce 
the otters' skins, as shoemakers do leather with 
an awl, so that the slender thread of the ca- 
raquata can be passed through it. This cloak 
is commonly used both by men and women, 
when the air is cold ; but the old people of both 
sexes will not part with a hair of these otters' 
skins, even in the hottest weather. Some of 
the poorer sort appear clothed in the skins of 
stags, does, and tigers. All the Americans, who 
are not entirely devoid of modesty, cover them- 
selves with skins to keep out the cold. Others 
substitute, or wear in addition, the many co- 
loured feathers of birds, sewed together with 
singular art ; but this is more for the sake of 
adorning than of covering the body. The sa- 
vages who inhabit the mountains, generally 
make threads of the caraquata, or of the bark 
of the tree pino, with which they weave a kind 
of cloth to serve in part for a covering. The 
Abiponian widows, whilst they mourn for their 
husbands, cover their shorn heads and their 
shoulders with this same kind of cloth. When 



the Abipones are bathed in sweat, the otters' 
skins, from not being dressed, exhale, I con- 
fess, a by no means balsamic odour. On 
coldish nights they are used for counterpanes. 
These skins and cloaks, when worn by use, 
generally serve to wrap and cover infants, and, 
when they have no linen in the house, to bind 
up wounds. 

In former ages the Americans preferred 
nakedness to clothing so greatly, that they re- 
fused or threw away the garments offered them 
by the Europeans. Now, however, the ardour 
with which the Paraguayrian Indians seek fine 
dresses exceeds belief. Give them a handsome 
hat, some pieces of red linen or cloth, or a 
string of glass-beads, and they will pay you 
the profoundest homage and obedience. Day 
and night did the Abipones pester us with the 
following petition : Give me a dress, father ! 
Pay! Tachcaut hihilalk, or aaparaik. There is 
no surer method of gaining the hearts of the 
Indians than giving them clothes. No Ame- 
rican colony will abound in Christian inha- 
bitants, unless it also abound in sheep and 
oxen ; the wool of the former being necessary 
to clothe, and the flesh of the latter to feed the 
bodies of the Indians. If both or either of these 
articles be wanting, they will return to their 

K 3 


-■ »Y ii». 



retreats, and think themselves richer in being 
foes than friends to the Spaniards. For, as I 
have often heard them complain, they found war 
with the Christians more to their advantage than 
peace. In times of declared enmity, they acquir- 
ed by arms what, when peace was established, 
they failed of obtaining by prayers. The most 
eloquent teacher of God's word will do but 
little good in Paraguay, unless he be liberal 
in clothing and feeding his disciples. Should 
an angel descend from Heaven to make the 
Abipones acquainted with God and his com- 
mandments, if he should come empty hand- 
ed, unprovided with clothes, food, and other 
gifts, it would be all in vain, he would scarce 
obtain a hearing. Were the blackest demon to 
come up from hell, and offer them chests full 
of clothes, food, knives, scissars, rings, and 
glass-beads, he would be called captain, and 
find all the Abipones tractable and obedient. 
If you ask me why the Americans have not all 
been induced to embrace Christianity, I will 
tell you the reason. It is chiefly owing to the 
pernicious examples of the old Christians, and 
to their w^ant of liberality to the Indians ; the 
former deter them from embracing our reli- 
gion, while the latter renders them apostates 
to it. Another cause is to be found in the 




'nn. „,„, 


The Abipones, in their whole deportment, pre- 
serve a decorum scarce credible to Europeans. 
Their countenance and gait display a modest 
cheerfulness, and manly gravity tempered v^ith 
gentleness and kindness. Nothing licentious, 
indecent, or uncourteous, is discoverable in 
their actions. In their daily meetings, all is 
quiet and orderly. Confused vociferations, 
quarrels, or sharp words, have no place there. 
They love jokes in conversation, but are averse 
to indecency and ill-nature. If any dispute 
arises, each declares his opinion with a calm 
countenance and unruffled speech : they never 
break out into clamours, threats, and reproaches, 
as is usual to certain people of Europe. These 
praises are justly due to the Abipones as long 
as they remain sober: but when intoxicated, 
they shake off the bridle of reason, become dis- 
tracted, and quite unlike themselves. In their 
assemblies, they maintain the utmost politeness. 
One scarcely dares to interrupt another, when 
he is speaking. Whilst one man relates some 



event of war, perhaps for half an hour together, 
all the rest not only listen attentively, but 
assent at every sentence, making a loud snort, 
as a sign of affirmation, which they every now 
and then express with these words : qiievorken, 
certainly, deer a, very true, and chik akalagritan, 
I don't in the least doubt it. Ta yeegam, or 
kem ekematl are exclamations of wonder. With 
these words, uttered with great eagerness, they 
interrupt the preacher in the midst of his dis- 
course, thinking it a mark of respect. They 
account it extremely ill-mannered to contradict 
any one, however much he may be mistaken. 
They salute one another, and return the salute 
in these words : La nauichi ? Now are you 
come ? La nau^, Now I am come. But in 
general, for the sake of brevity, both parties 
only use the word La, pronounced with much 
emphasis. The same manner of saluting is 
usual to the Guaranies, who say Ereyupa ? Are 
you come ? Ayu angd, I am come. When 
tired of a conversation, they never depart with- 
out taking leave of the master of the house. 
The one who sits nearest to him, says : Ma chik 
kla ley a I - Have we not talked enough ? the 
second accosts the third, and the third the 
fourth, in the same words, till at length the last 
of the circle, seated on the ground, declares 
that they have talked enough : Kla leya, upoA 




which they all rise up together at one moment; 
Each then courteously takes leave of the master 
of the house in these words, Lahikyegarik : now 
I am going from you ; to which he replies. La 
micheroa: now you are going from me. The 
plebeian Indians say Lahik, now I am going. 
When at the door of the house, that is, at 
the place where they go out, for they have 
no doors, they turn to the master, and say, 
Tamtara, I shall see you again, an expression 
commonly made use of in our country. They 
would think it quite contrary to the laws of 
good-breeding, were they to meet any one, 
and not ask him where he was going : so that 
the word Miekauh? ov Miekauchith? where are 
you going? resounds in the streets. 
' The men think polygamy and divorce allow- 
able, from the example of their ancestors, and 
of other American nations ; but very few of 
the Abipones indulge in this liberty. Re- 
pudiation is much more common than a plu- 
rality of wives. But very many are content 
with one wife during the whole of their lives. 
They think it both wicked and disgraceful to 
have any illicit connection with other women ; 
so that adultery is almost unheard-of amongst 
them. Both boys and girls display a native 
hilarity in their countenances, yet you never 
see them in company, or talking together. 



Some time after my arrival, I played on the 
flute in the open street. The crowd of women 
were delighted with the sweetness of a musical 
instrument they had never before seen ; and the 
youths flocked in numbers to hear it; but as 
soon as they approached, the women every 
one disappeared. The custom of bathing in a 
neighbouring stream is agreeable to them, and 
practised every day, except when the air is too 
cold. But do not imagine that, as syrens and 
dolphins are seen sporting on the same waves in 
the ocean, males and females swim and wash in 
the same part of the lake, or river. According 
to the Abiponian custom, the different sexes 
have different places assigned them. Where the 
women bathe, you cannot find the shadow of a 
man. Above a hundred women often go out 
to distant plains together to collect various 
fruits, roots, colours, and other useful things, 
and remain four or eight days in the country, 
without having any male to accompany them 
on their journey, assist them in their labours, 
take care of the horses, or guard them amidst 
.the perils of wild beasts, or of enemies. Those 
Amazons are sufficient to themselves, and think 
they are safer alone. I never heard of a single 
woman being torn to pieces by a tiger, or bitten 
by a serpent : but I knew many men who were 
killed in both ways. 



I do not deny that the Abipones have been 
savage, inhuman, and ferocious, but only against 
those whom they believed to be their enemies. 
Before peace was established, they afflicted all 
Paraguay, for many years, with fire, slaughter, 
and rapine ; but this they looked upon as the 
privilege of war, and indeed a thing to be 
gloried in, because they always found or sus- 
pected the Spaniards their enemies. They 
thought they were only repelling force by force, 
and returning injuries for injuries, slaughters for 
slaughters ; which they deny to be wrong or dis- 
honourable; seeing the same so frequently done, 
in time of war, by the Spaniards to the Portu- 
gueze, and by the Portugueze to the Spaniards. 
Led by their example, they insisted upon it 
that they should not be called assassins, and 
thieves, but soldiers, whose duty it is to offend 
their adversaries, and defend themselves and 
their possessions to the utmost of their power. 
The heads of the Spaniards severed from their 
shoulders, they called their trophies, and pre- 
served as testimonials of their valour. The innu- 
merable herds of cattle, the thousands of horses, 
in short whatever they took from the Spaniards, 
they called booty justly obtained in war. They 
always disown the name of robbers, in the plea 
that all the cattle of the Spaniards, by right, 
belongs to them ; because, born on lands which 



the Spaniards forcibly wrested from their ances- 
tors, and which, in their opinion, they at this 
day unjustly usurp. To eradicate these errors, 
we all ardently strove to instil into their fero- 
cious minds an aflfection and friendship for 
the Spaniards ; but our efforts were not crown- 
ed with success. Although they burnt with 
hereditary hatred to the Spaniards, yet, in their 
very manner of killing them, they displayed a 
sort of humanity. They inflicted death, but 
thought it unworthy of them, after the mortal 
blow, to torture, excruciate, tear, and mangle 
them, like other savages ; though they were won- 
derfully solicitous about cutting off their heads, 
by displaying which they thought to testify their 
valour to their countrymen at home. They 
generally spared the unwarlike, and carried 
away innocent boys and girls unhurt. They 
used to feed infants, torn from their mothers' 
breasts, with the juice of fruits and herbs, 
during a long journey, and carried them home 
uninjured. If ever mothers, or their children, 
were slain, it was done by youths thirsting for 
the blood of the Spaniards, or by grown men 
enraged at the deaths of their countrymen 
whom the Spaniards had slain. 

The Spaniards, Indians, Negroes, or Mulat- 
toes, taken by them in war, they do not ill-use 
like captives, but treat with kindness, and in- 



dulgence ; I had almost said like children. If 
a master wants his captive to do any thing, he 
signifies it in an asking, not a commanding tone. 
If you please, he gently says, or take compassion 
on me, and bring me my horse, Amamat gro- 
hochem, or Grcdiiagiikam, yaiierla ahopegak tak 
nahorechi ena. I never saw a captive, however 
dilatory or hesitating in performing his master's 
orders, punished either with a word or a blow. 
Many display the tenderest compassion, kind- 
ness, and confidence towards their captives. 
To clothe them, they will strip their own bodies, 
and though very hungry, will deprive them- 
selves of food to offer it them,*if they stand in 
need of it. An old woman, wife of the chief 
Gacique Alaykin, has frequently got the horse 
ready and saddled it, in my presence, for a 
Negro captive of her's. Another old woman, 
mother of the Cacique Revachigi, gave up her 
bed for many nights to a sick boy, one of her 
captives, and, lying miserably on the floor her- 
self, watched day and night in attendance upon 
him. By this kindness and wish to gratify, 
they bind their captives so firmly to them, that 
they never think of taking advantage of the 
daily opportunities afforded them of flight, 
being perfectly well satisfied with their situ- 
ation. I knew many, who, after being ransom^ 
ed, and brought back to their own country. 



voluntarily returned to their Abiponian masters, 
whom they follow both to the chase and to the 
combat; little scrupulous about shedding the 
blood of Spaniards, though Spaniards them- 
selves. What a subject for lamentation have 
we here! How many Spaniards by birth, 
brought up from childhood amongst the Abi- 
pones, and instructed in their ceremonies, cus- 
toms, and a hundred arts of injury, became the 
destroyers of Paraguay, their native soil! 
Whenever these men were present at the bloody 
expeditions of the savages, they were not only 
companions of the journey, but guides and 
partakers in all the slaughter, burning, and 
plundering committed at such times ; in a 
word, instruments of public calamities, in the 
same manner as the Portugueze, Spanish, and 
Italian renegadoes, who did so much service to 
the pirates of Algiers and Morocco, by inter- 
cepting the vessels of their countrymen. 

Now at this moment I have before my eyes 
the countenances and wicked actions of many 
of these captives, whom I knew amongst the 
Abipones, and who, in desire of injuring the 
Spaniards, and indeed in savageness, exceeded 
the savages themselves. The soldiers of St. 
lago, whilst resting at noon in an excursion to 
Chaco, happened to cast their eyes upon a 
scull, and after much debate about whom it: 



could belong to, clearly discovered that a short 
time previous, four Spaniards had been slain in 
that place, and that the perpetrator of the 
murder was a Spaniard, a captive, and leader 
of the Abipones, and more formidable to the 
Spanish nation than any Abipon. Many things 
worthy of relation will occur respecting this 
base crew, respecting Almaraz, Casco, Juanico, 
a Negro of Corrientes, Juan Joseph, an Ytatin- 
gua Indian, and above all, respecting Juan 
Diaz Caeperlahachin. This last, an Abipon by 
origin, had been taken in war by the Spaniards, 
when a boy, and afterwards converted to their 
religion. During twenty years which he spent 
in the town of St. lago, in the service of the 
Spaniard Juan Diaz Caeperlahachin, he evinced 
much probity, and even piety. Every year, in 
the last week of Lent, did he publicly mangle 
his back with a bloody scourge; but after 
having effected his escape, and got back to his 
countrymen, he became the scourge of the 
Spaniards, and shedding torrents of their blood, 
obtained a high renown amongst his own 
people, to whom his knowledge of roads and 
places rendered him eminently useful ; for, in 
expeditions having the slaughter of the Spa- 
niards for their object, no man discharged the 
offices of scout and leader more gloriously or 
more willingly than he. Peace being subse-; 



quently established with the Spaniards, and 
the colony of Concepcion founded for the Abi- 
pones, this man, who was acquainted with many 
languages, performed the part of interpreter 
there; abusing which office to his own pur- 
poses, he left no stone unturned to render the 
friendship of the Spaniards suspicious, the 
religion of Christ, and us, the teachers of that 
religion, odious to the Abiponian catechumens. 
Feigning, however, piety and friendship, this 
crafty knave succeeded in gaining an excellent 
character amongst the credulous Spaniards 
and Abipones, though dangerous to both, and 
perfectly intolerable to us who governed the 
colony. But lo ! the pestilent son had a still 
more pestilent mother. This woman, the chief 
of all the female jugglers, a hundred years 
old, venerable to the people on account of 
her wrinkles, and formidable by reason of the 
magic arts she was thought to be acquainted 
with, never ceased exhorting her countrymen 
to shun and detest the church, our instruction, 
and baptism, even when administered to dying 
infants. Behold ! a mother worthy of her son 
—a bad egg of a bad crow ! But the vengeance 
of God overtook this accursed old woman. 
Flying from the town, with a band of her 
hordesmen, she was killed by the Mocobios, 




along with many others. Of what death, or in 
what place Caeperlahachin died, I am still 


The liberty of wandering at will, the abun- 
dant supply of food and clothing, the multitude 
of horses, the power of being as idle and pro- 
fligate as they chose, and the completest impu- 
nity, where neither law nor censure is to be 
apprehended, bind the Spanish captives to the 
Abipones with so sweet a chain, that they 
prefer their captivity to freedom, forgetful of 
their relations and their country, where they 
know that they must live in obedience to the 
laws, and labour daily, unless they choose to 
endure stripes and hunger. I have known 
captives of so bad a disposition that their mas- 
ters were glad to get rid of them without ran- 
som. In many of the captives you would look 
in vain for the least trace of a Christian, or 
even of a man. Very few of the Abipones have 
many wives at a time, though they account 
polygamy lawful ; the captives, seldom content 
with one, marry as many Spanish or Indian 
captives as they can. For the Abiponian wo- 
men scorn to marry either Spaniards, or In- 
dians of any other nation, unless, by the splen- 
dour of their achievements, namely, slaughters 
and rapine, they be reputed Abipones in nobi- 
lity. The men too, accounting themselves 



more noble than any other nation, never deign 
to marry the Spanish captives, much less to 
have any clandestine intercourse with them : 
so that their virtue would be safer in captivity 
amongst the savages, than in freedom amongst 
their own countrymen, could they escape the se- 
ductive arts of their fellow captives. In confes- 
sion, I found most of the female Spaniards, after 
a very long captivity amongst the Abipones, 
guilty of no trespass upon the laws of chastity. 
They all agreed in confessing that no woman 
need go astray amongst these savages, unless 
she herself chose it. I can say as much for 
the continence of the young men, who had been 
long captives amongst them. 

The gentle reader will pardon this digression 
concerning captives, if indeed it be a digression, 
because it does much towards establishing a 
good opinion of the chastity and benevolence 
of the Abipones, which form the subject of the 
present chapter, and will be further confirmed 
by additional arguments. They hospitably en- 
tertain Spaniards of the lower order, Negroes 
or Christian Indians, who have run away from 
their masters, lost their way, or, by some other 
means, chanced to enter the hordes of the Abi- 
pones, and, in the most friendly manner, offer 
them food or any thing else they may stand in 
need of; this they do the more cordially the 





more liberally these strangers abuse the Spanish 
nation ; but if they neglect this they are taken 
for spies, and undergo considerable danger. 
They diligently watched over the safety of us 
Jesuits, to whom was committed the manage- 
ment of the colonies. If they were aware of 
any danger impending over us from foreign foes, 
they acquainted us with it immediately, and 
were all intent upon warding it from us. In 
journies, when rivers were to be crossed, the 
horses got ready, sudden and secret attacks of 
the enemy to be avoided or repelled, it is incre- 
dible how anxiously they offered us their assist- 
ance. See! what mild, benevolent souls these 
savages possess ! Though they used to rob and 
murder the Spaniards whilst they thought them 
their enemies, yet they never take anything from 
their own countrymen. Hence, as long as they 
are sober, and in possession of their senses, ho- 
micide and theft are almost unheard of amongst 
them. They are often and long absent from 
their homes, during which time they leave 
their little property without a guard, or even a 
door, exposed to the eyes and hands of all, 
with no apprehension of the loss of it, and on 
their return from a long journey, find every 
thing untouched. The doors, locks, bars, 
chests, and guards with which Europeans de- 
fend their possessions from thieves, are things 



unknown to the Abipones, and quite unne- 
cessary to them. Boys and girls not unfre- 
quently pilfered melons grown in our gar- 
dens, and chickens reared in our houses, but 
in them the theft was excusable; for they 
falsely imagined that these things were free to 
all, or might be taken not much against the 
will of the owner. Though I have enlarged on 
the native virtues of the Abipones more than it 
was my intention to do, I shall think nothing 
has been said till I have made a few observa- 
tions relative to their endurance of labour. 
Who can describe the constant fatigues of 
war and hunting which they undergo ? When 
they make an excursion against the enemy, 
they often spend two or three months in an 
arduous journey of above three hundred leagues 
through desert wilds. They swim across vast 
rivers, and long lakes more dangerous than 
rivers. They traverse plains of great extent, 
destitute both of wood and water. They sit for 
whole days on saddles scarce softer than wood, 
without having their feet supported by a stir^ 
rup. Their hands always bear the weight of 
a very long spear. They generally ride trot- 
ting horses, which miserably shake the rider's 
bone5 by their jerking pace. They go bare- 
headed amidst burning sun, profuse rain, clouds 




of dust, and hurricanes of wind. They gene- 
rally cover their bodies with woollen garments, 
which fit close to the skin ; but if the extreme 
heat obliges them to throw these off as far as 
the middle, their breasts, shoulders, and arms 
are cruelly bitten and covered with blood by 
swarms of flies, gad-flies, gnats, and wasps. 
As they always set out upon their journeys 
unfurnished with provisions, they are obliged 
to be constantly on the look out for wild ani- 
mals, which they may pursue, kill, and convert 
into a remedy for their hunger. As they have 
no cups they pass the night by the side of 
rivers or lakes, out of which they drink like 
dogs. But this opportunity of getting water 
is dearly purchased ; for moist places are not 
only seminaries of gnats and serpents, but like- 
wise the haunts of dangerous wild beasts, 
which threaten them with sleepless nights and 
peril of their lives. They sleep upon the hard 
ground, either starved with cold, or parched 
with heat, and if overtaken by a storm, often lie 
awake, soaking in water the whole night. 
When they perform the office of scouts, they 
frequently have to creep on their hands and 
feet over trackless woods, and through forests, 
to avoid discovery; passing days and nights 
without sleep or food. This also was the case 
when they were long pursued by the enemy. 



and forced to hasten their flight. All these 
things the Abipones do, and suffer without ever 
complaining, or uttering an expression of impa- 
tience, unlike Europeans, who, at the smallest 
inconvenience, get out of humour, grow angry, 
and since they cannot bend heaven to their 
will, call upon hell. What we denominate pa^ 
tience is nature with them. Their minds are 
habituated to inconvenience, and their bodies 
almost rendered insensible by long custom, 
even from childhood. While yet children they 
imitate their fathers in piercing their breasts and 
arms with sharp thorns, without any manifes- 
tation of pain. Hence it is, that when arrived 
at manhood, they bear their wounds without a 
groan, and would think the compassion of 
others derogatory to their fortitude. The most 
acute pain will deprive them of life before it 
will extort a sigh. The love of glory, acquired 
by the reputation of fortitude, renders them 
invincible, and commands them to be silent. 

Most of the observations I have just been 
making apply both to men and women, although 
the latter possess virtues and vices peculiar to 
themselves. All the Americans have a natural 
propensity to sloth, but I gladly pronounce the 
Abiponian women entirely free from this foible. 
Every one must be astonished at their unwea- 




ried industry. They despatch the household bu- 
siness with which they are daily overwhelmed, 
with alacrity and cheerfulness. It is their task 
to make clothes for their husbands and children ; 
to fetch eatable roots, and various fruits from 
the woods ; to gather the alfaroba, grind it, and 
convert it into drink, and to get water and 
wood for the daily consumption of the family. 
A ridiculous custom is in use amongst the Abi- 
pones, of making the most aged woman in the 
horde provide water for all domestic purposes. 
Though the river may be close at hand, the 
water is always fetched in large pitchers on 
horseback, and the same method is observed 
in getting wood for fuel. You will never hear 
one of these women complain of fatigue, however 
many cares she may have to employ her mind. 
A noble Spaniard had a captive Abiponian wo- 
man in his service many years, and he assured 
me that she was more useful and valuable to 
him than three other servants, because she an- 
ticipated his orders, and did her business sea- 
sonably, accurately, and quickly. They justly 
claim the epithet of the devout female sex. No 
sooner do they hear the sound of the bell than 
they all fly to hear the Christian religion ex- 
plained, and listen to the preacher with attentive 
ears. They highly approve the law of Christ, 
because by it no husband is allowed to put 



away his wife, or to marry more than one. For 
this reason they are extremely anxious to have 
themselves and their husbands baptized, that 
they may be rendered more certain of the per- 
petuity of their marriage. This must be un- 
derstood only of the younger women ; for the 
old ones, who are obstinate adherers to their an- 
cient superstitions, and priestesses of the savage 
rites, strongly oppose the Christian religion, fore- 
seeing that if it were embraced by the whole Abi- 
ponian nation, they should lose their authority, 
and become the scorn and the derision of all. 
The young men amongst the Abipones, as well 
as the old women, greatly withstood the pro- 
gress of religion ; for, burning with the .desire of 
military glory and of booty, they are excessively 
fond of cutting off the heads of the Spaniards, 
and plundering their waggons and estates, which 
they know to be forbidden by the law of God. 
Hence, they had rather adhere to the institutes 
of their ancestors, and traverse the country on 
swift horses, than listen to the words of a priest 
within the walls of a church. If it depended 
upon the old men and the young women alone, 
the whole nation would long since have em- 
braced our religion. 

Honourable mention has been frequently made 
by me of the chastity of the Abiponian women : 



it would be wrong to be silent upon their sobriety 
and temperance. It costs them much labour 
to prepare a sweet drink for their husbands 
of honey and the alfaroba: but they never 
even taste it themselves, being condemned to 
pure water the whole of their lives. Would 
that they as carefully abstained from strife 
and contentions, as they do from all strong 
drink! Quarrels certainly do arise amongst 
them, and often end in blood, upon the most 
trivial occasions. They generally dispute about 
things of no consequence, about goats' wool, as 
Horace expresses it, or the shadow of an ass. 
One word uttered by a scolding woman is often 
the cause and means of exciting a mighty war. 
The Abipones, in anger, use the following terms 
of reproach: Acami Lmiaraik, you are an Indian, 
that is, plebeian, ignoble ; Acami Lichiegaraik, 
you are poor, wretched ; Acami Ahamraik, you 
are dead. They sometimes dreadfully misapply 
these epithets. Who w^ould not laugh to hear 
a horse, flying as quick as lightning, but which 
his rider wishes to incite to greater speed, 
called Ahamraik, dead? When two women 
quarrel, one calls the other poor, or low-born, 
or perhaps lifeless. Presently a loud vocife- 
ration is heard, and from words they proceed to 
blows. The whole company of women crowd 



to the market-place, not merely to look on, but 
to give assistance as they shall think proper. 
Some defend the one, some the other. The 
duel soon becomes a battle-royal. They fly at 
each other's breasts with their teeth like tigers, 
and often give them bloody bites. They lace- 
rate one another's cheeks with their nails, rend 
their hair with their hands, and tear the hole of 
the flap of the ear, into which the roll of palm- 
leaves is inserted. Though a husband sees his 
wife, and a father his daughter, bathed in blood 
and covered with wounds, yet they look on at a 
distance, with motionless feet, silent tongues, 
and calm eyes ; they applaud their Amazons, 
laugh, and wonder to see such anger in the souls 
of women, but would think it beneath a man to 
take any part in these female battles. If there 
appears no hope of the restoration of peace, they 
go to the Father: "See!" say they, "our 
women are out of their senses again to-day. 
Go, and frighten them away with a musket." 
Alarmed at the noise, and even at the sight of 
this, they hasten back to their tents, but even 
from thence, with a Stentorian voice, repeat the 
word which had been the occasion of the com- 
bat, and, neither liking to seem conquered, re- 
turn again and again to the market-place, and 
renew the fight. It seems to have been a regu- 



lation of divine Providence, that the Abiponian 
women should abstain from all strong liquors, for, 
if so furious vi^hen sober, what would they have 
been in a state of intoxication ? The whole 
race of the Abipones would have been utterly- 


The multitude and variety of tongues spoken 
in Paraguay alone, exceeds alike belief and cal- 
culation. Nor should you imagine that they 
vary only in dialect. Most of them are radi- 
cally different. Truly admirable is their varied 
structure, of which no rational person can sup- 
pose these stupid savages to have been the 
architects and inventors. Led by this consi- 
deration, I have often affirmed that the variety 
and artful construction of languages should be 
reckoned amongst the other arguments to prove 
the existence of an eternal and omniscient God. 
The Jesuits have given religious instructions to 
fourteen nations of Paraguay, and widely pro- 
pagated the Christian faith, in fourteen diffe- 
rent languages. They did not each understand 
them all, but every one was well acquainted 
with two or three, namely, those of the nations 
amongst whom they had lived. Of the number 
of these was I, who spent seven years amongst 
the Abipones, eleven amongst the Guaranies. 
The nations for whom we laboured, and for 
whom founded colonies, were the Guaranies, 



,''!• !^ 

Chiquitos, Mocobios, Abipones, Tobas, Malba- 
laes, Vilelas, Passaines, Lules, Isistines, Homo- 
ampas, Chunipies, Mataguayos, Chiriguanes, 
Lenguas or Guaycurus, Mbayas, Pampas, Ser- 
ranos, Patagones, and Yaros. Moreover, the 
Guichua language, which is peculiar to the 
whole of Peru, and very familiar to Negro 
slaves, to the lower orders amongst the Spa- 
niards, and even to matrons of the higher ranks 
in Tucuman, was used by many of the Jesuits, 
both in preaching and confession. Different 
languages were spoken too in the towns of 
the Chiquitos, which were composed of very 
different nations. The languages of the Abi- 
pones, Mocobios, and Tobas, certainly have all 
one origin, and are as much alike as Spanish 
and Portugueze. Yet they differ not only in 
dialect, but also in innumerable little words. 
The same may be said of the Tonocot^ language, 
in use amongst the Lules and Isistines. The 
language of the Chiriguanes and Guaranies, 
who live full five hundred leagues apart, is 
the same, with the exception of a few words, 
which may be easily learnt in the course of two 
or three weeks by any one who understands 
either of them. 

Many writers upon America have interspersed 
sentences of the Indian languages into their 
histories ; but, good Heavens ! how utterly de- 



fective and corrupted ! They have scarce left 
a letter unmutilated. But these writers are 
excusable, for they have drawn their informa- 
tion from corrupted sources. Without having 
even entered America, they insert into their 
journals the words of savage languages, the 
meaning and pronunciation of which they are 
totally ignorant of. Hence it is that the Ame- 
rican names of places, rivers, trees, plants, and 
animals, are so wretchedly mutilated in all 
books, that we can hardly read them without 
laughter. Spanish children, by constantly con- 
versing wilh Indians of their own age, imbibe a 
correct knowledge of the Indian languages, 
which, to grown-up persons, is a business both 
of time and labour. I have known adults who, 
after conversing many years with the Indians, 
uttered as many errors as syllables. It is dif- 
ficult for a European to accustom his tongue to 
the strange and distorted words which the sa- 
vages pronounce so fast and indistinctly, hissing 
with their tongues, snoring with their nostrils, 
grinding with their teeth, and gurgling with 
their throats; so that you seem to hear the sound 
of ducks quacking in a pond, rather than the 
voices of men talking. Learned men had long 
wished that a person who understood some 
American language would clearly expound the 
system, construction, and whole anatomy of it: 



and it is to comply with the desire of these 
persons that I am going to treat compendiously 
of the Abiponian language. 

Most of the Americans want some letter 
which we Europeans use, and use some which 
we want. A letter of very frequent occurrence 
amongst the Abipones, but which we Europeans 
are unacquainted with, is one which has the 
mixed sound of R and G. To pronounce it pro- 
perly, the tongue must be slided a little along 
the roof of the mouth, and brought towards the 
throat, in the manner of those persons who have 
a natural incapacity of pronouncing tlie letter R. 
To signify this peculiar letter of the Abipones, 
we have written R or G indiscriminately, but 
distinguished by a certain mark, thus : Laetarat^ 
a son: Achibiraik, salt. The plural number 
changes R into K, thus : Laetkdte, sons. Eu- 
ropeans find much difficulty in pronouncing this 
letter, especially if it recur several times in the 
same word, as in Raregranraik, a Vilela Indian. 
Rellaranran potrdl, he hunts wild horses. Za- 
priratraik, many-coloured. The Abipones can 
distinguish an European, however well-skilled 
in every other part of their language, by the 
pronunciation of this letter. 

The Abipones use the 6, which the Para- 
guayrians write e with two dots, like the French, 
Hungarians, and Germans: as Ah'epegah a 



horse, Yahec, my face. They make frequent 
use of the Greek K. They pronounce N like 
the Spaniards, as if the letter I was added to 
it : thus, Espaiiol must be pronounced Espafiiol. 
The Abipones say Menetani, it is within ; Yo- 
amcachini, the inner part is good. The legiti- 
mate pronunciation of this and other letters can 
only be learned viva voce. 

Great attention must be paid to all the diffe- 
rent accents and points, for the omission of a 
point, or the variation of an accent, gives a word 
a totally different meaning, thus : Heet, I fly ; 
H'eet, I speak ; Haten, I despise ; Haten, I hit 
the mark. This language abounds in very long 
words, consisting often, twenty, or more letters. 
The accents repeated in the same word show 
where the voice should be raised and where 
lowered : for the speech of this nation is very 
mucli modulated, and resembles singing. The 
accents alone are scarce sufficient to teach the 
pronunciation. It would not be amiss to sub- 
join musical notes to each of the syllables, un- 
less a master supersedes the necessity of this 
artifice by teaching it viva voce. It may be as 
well to give some examples of accents. Ha- 
mihegemkifi, Debdyakaikin, Raregrdgremarachin, 
OakSrkaikin. These are names of Abipones. 
GrcduagyegarigS, pity me. Oahdyegalgh, free 
me. Hapagratnitapagetd, you teach one another. 





Nicauagraniapegaralgey I intercede for thee. 
Hemokdchinutdpegioa, thou praisest me. Here 
are words of twenty letters. You will not find 
many monosyllables. The tall Abipones like 
words which resemble themselves in length. 

They have a masculine and a feminine gender, 
but no neuter. A knowledge of the genders is 
to be gained by use alone. Grahauldi, the sun, 
is feminine with them, like the German Die 
Sonne. Grauhk, the moon, is masculine, as our 
Der Monde. Some adjectives are of both gen- 
ders, as Naa, which is evil, both masculine and 
feminine. Neeii, good, of both genders. In 
others every gender has its own termination, as 
Ariaik, good, noble, mas. Ariaye, good, noble, 
fern. Cachergaik, an old man; Cachergayl, an 
old woman. 

The nouns have no cases. A letter prefixed 
to the noun sometimes indicates the case : as, 
Aym, I; M'aym,\si me; J.A:^/?2i, thou ; Makami, 

to thee. 

The formation of the plural number of nouns 
is very difiicult to beginners ; for it is so various 
that hardly any rule can be set down. I give 
you some examples : 

Singular. Plural. 

Laetarat, a son Laetkate, sons 

Lekkt, a metal ' Lekachi, metals 

Ahepegak, a horse Ahepega, horses 

yuih4k, an ox Yuiha, oxen 


Nek6tet^k, a goose Neketeteri, geese 

Oachigranigaj a stag Oachigranigal, stags 

Ifiier^, the flower of the alfa-. Iniegari, flowers, or years 

roba, or a year 
Neogk, a day Neogotk, days 

Eergraik, a star Eergrai^, stars 

Aaparaik^linen or woollen cloth Aaparaikk, pieces of cloth 
Yapot, a brave man Yapochi, brave men 

Lachaoge, a river Lachaok^, rivers 

Letek, the leaf of a tree Letegk^, leaves 


Ketelk, a mule 
Pank, a root 
Iibichigi, angry, sing. 

Ketelra, mules 
Panari, roots 
libichigeri^ angiy, plur. 

From these few examples it appears that 
nouns ending in the same letter have different 
plurals. Moreover, as the Greeks, beside a 
plural number, have also a dual by which they 
express two things, so the Abipones have two 
plurals, of which the one signifies more than 
one, the other many : thus Joale, a man. Joaleh, 
or JoaUlna, some men. Joaliripi, many men. 
Ahepegak, a horse. Ahepega, some horses. 
Ahepegeripi, many horses. 

I wonder that the Abipones have not two 
words for the first person plural, we, like many 
other American nations. The Guaranies ex- 
press it in two ways : they sometimes say, 
nandh, sometimes ore. The first they call the 
inclusive; the second the exclusive. In their 
prayers, addressing God, they say. We sinners, 

M 2 



ore angaypahiya ; because God is excluded from 
the number of sinners. Speaking with men, 
they say, nayidh angaypahiya, because those 
whom they address are sinners likewise, and 
they accordingly use the inclusive handh. 

As they have no possessive pronouns, mine, 
thine, his, the want of them is supplied in every 
noun, by the addition or alteration of various 
letters. Amongst the Abipones a great diffi- 
culty is occasioned by the various changes of 
the letters, especially in the second person. 
Take these examples. Neta, a father indeter- 
minately. Yita, my father. Gretay, thine. 
Leth, his. Greth, our father. Gretay i, yours. 
Letai, theirs. 

Naetarat, a son, without expressing whose. 
Yaetfat, my son. Graetrachi, thy son. Lae- 

traty his son. 

Nephp, a maternal grandfather. Yephp, mine. 
Grepeph, \\m\Q. Lepep, his. 

Naah a grandson. Yaal, mine. Graali, thine. 

Laal, his. 

Nenak, a younger brother. Yenak, mine. 

Grenarh, ihmQ. Lenak, his. 

Nakirbk, a cousin german. Nakirhk, mine. 
Gnakiregi, thine. Nakirek, his. 

Noheleth, the point of a spear. Yoheleth, mine. 
Grohelichi, thine. Loheleth, his. 

Natatra, Yiie. Yatatr a, mjMie. Gratatre, 
thine. Latatra, his. 



But these examples are sufficient to show the 
multiplied variety of the second person. 
Amongst the Guaranies too, the possessives are 
affixed to the nouns, but this occasions no diffi- 
culty, because the mutation is regular: thus, 
Tm^^, a father. Cy^erw^^, my father. Nderuba^ 
thine. Tuba, his. Guba, theirs. Tay, a son. 
Cheray, mine. Nderay, thine. Tay, his. Guay, 
theirs. Che is prefixed to nouns for the first 
person, and Nde for the second, without varia- 
tion. Likewise in the plural they say Nande, 
or Oreruba, our father. Penduba, your father. 
Tuba, or Guba, their father. In all other sub- 
stantives these particles supply the place of 

The following observation must be made on 
the possessive nouns of the Abipones. If they 
see any thing whose owner they do not know, 
and wish to be made acquainted with, they 
enquire to whom it belongs in various ways. 
If the object in question be animate, (even 
though it only possess vegetable life,) as 
wheat, a horse, a dog, a captive, &c. they say 
Cahami Ida 1 whose property is this ? to which 
the other will reply, Yla, mine. Grell, thine. 
Lela, his. On the other hand, if the thing be 
inanimate, as a spear, a garment, food, &c. 
they say Kahami kalctm, to whom does this 

M 3 - 



belong, and the other will say, Aim, to me. 
Karami, to thee. Halam, to him. Karam, to 
us, &c. 

The pronouns of the first and second persons 
are subject to no mutations, on account of place 
or situation. Thus, Aym, I. Akami, thou. 
Akanl, we. Akamyi, you. If alone be added, 
they are altered in this manner : Aymatara, I 
alone. Akamitara, thou alone. Akhm akalh, 
we alone. 

But the pronoun of the third person, he, is 
varied, according to the situation of the person 
of whom you speak. For if the object of dis- 



Mas. he. 

Fern. she. 

Be present, he is called. 



If he be sitting. 



If lying. 



If standing. 



If walking and 



Ahaha ' 

If not seen. 



He alone is also expressed in various ways. 

If he alone is sitting, you say Ynitara 

If lying, Iritara 

If walking, ^ Ehatara 

If absent, Ekatara 

If standing, Eratara. 

They form the comparative and superlative 
degrees, not as in other languages, by the addi- 
tion of syllables, but in a different manner. An 




Abipon would express this sentence. The tiger 
is worse than the dog, thus : the dog is not bad 
though the tiger be bad. NStegink chik naa, oagan 
nihirenak la naa : or thus. The dog is not bad as 
the tiger, Netegink chi chi naa yagam nihirenak. 
When we should say, The tiger is worst, an 
Abipon would say, the tiger is bad above all 
things, Nihir^etiak lamerpeedoge kenodoge nah : or 
thus. The tiger is bad so that it has no equal in 
badness. Nihirenak chit keoa naa. Sometimes 
they express a superlative, or any other emi- 
nence, merely by raising the voice. Ariaik, ac- 
cording to the pronunciation, signifies either a 
thing simply good, or the very best. If it be 
uttered with the whole force of the breast, and 
.with an elevated voice, ending in an acute 
sound, it denotes the superlative degree ; if with 
a calm, low voice, the positive. They signify 
that they are much pleased with any thing, or 
that they approve it greatly, by uttering with a 
loud voice the vvords La naa! heioxQ Ariaik, ox 
Euren^k. Now it is bad ! It is beautiful, or ex- 
cellent! iVeA^o/ means night. If they exclaim 
in a sharp tone. La nehadl, they mean that it is 
midnight, or the dead of the night : if they pro- 
nounce it slowly and hesitatingly, they mean< 
that it is the beginning of the night. When they 
see any one hit the mark with an arrow, knock 
down a tiger quickly, &c. and wish to express 

M 4 



that he is eminently dexterous, they cry with a 
loud voice, La yaraigh, now he knows, which, 
with them, is the highest commendation. 

They form diminutives, by adding avalk, aole, 
or olek, to the last syllable of the word, thus : 
Ahepegak, a horse. Ahepeger avalk, a little horse, 
OSnek, a boy. Oenhkavalk, a little boy. Hadye, 
a girl. Haaydole, a little girl. Pay, father, a 
word for priest, introduced into America by the 
Portugueze. Fayollk, little father, which they 
used when they wished to express particular 
kindness towards us. When angry, they only 
used the word Pay. Kdepak, wood. Kde- 
perdole, a little piece of wood, by which they 
designated the beads of the rosary. LenecM, 
little, moderate. Lenechiolek, or Lenechiavalk. 
They make very frequent use of diminutives, 
which, with them, indicate either tender affec- 
tion or contempt : thus, Yoale, a man. Yoa- 
leolek, a little man, a bit of a man. Often with 
them a diminutive is a stronger expression of 
love or praise than any superlative : thus, they 
call a stronger or handsomer horse than ordi- 
nary, Ahepeger avalk. The Spaniards too ex- 
press a more particular liking for a thing, when 
they call it bonito, than when they simply call i t 
buenOy good or pretty. 

Most of the American nations are extremely 
deficient in words to express number. The 




Abipones can only express three numbers in 
proper words. Initdra, one. Inoaka, two. 
Inoaka yekainl, three. They make up for the 
other numbers by various arts : thus, Geyenk 
nath, the fingers of an emu, which, as it has 
three in front and one turned back, are four, 
serves to express that number. Nehnhakk, a 
beautiful skin spotted with five different co- 
lours, is used to signify the number five. If 
you interrogate an Abipon respecting the 
number of any thing, he will stick up his 
fingers, and say, leyer iri, so many. If it be of 
importance to convey an accurate idea of the 
number of the thing, he will display the fingers 
of both hands or feet, and if all these are not 
sufficient, show them over and over again till 
they equal the number required. Hence Ha- 
nambegem, the fingers of one hand means five ; 
Lamm rihegem, the fingers of both hands, ten ; 
LanAm rihegem, cat gracherhaka andmichirihe- 
ghm, the fingers of both hands and both feet, 
twenty. They have also another method of 
making up for want of numbers. When they 
return from an excursion to hunt wild horses, 
or shoot tame ones, none of the Abipones will 
ask them how many horses have you brought 
home ? but, how much space will the troop of 
horse which you have brought home occupy ? 
to which they will reply, the horses placed in a 




row would fill the whole market-place, or they 
extend from this grove to the river's bank. With 
this reply, which gives them an idea of the quan- 
tity of horses, they remain satisfied, though un- 
informed of the exact number. Sometimes they 
take up a handful of sand or grass, and showing 
it to the interrogator, endeavour in this way to 
express an immense quantity. But when num- 
ber is spoken of, take care you do not readily 
credit whatever the Abipones say. They are 
not ignorant of arithmetic, but averse to it. 
Their memory generally fails them. They can- 
not endure the tedious process of counting. 
Hence to rid themselves of questions on the 
subject, they show as many fingers as they 
like, sometimes deceived themselves, sometimes 
deceiving others. Often, if the number about 
.which you ask exceed three, an Abipon, to save 
himself the trouble of showing his fingers, will 
cry Fdp! many. Chic ley ekalip], innumerable. 
.Sometimes, when ten soldiers are coming, the 
assembled people will exclaim, Yoaliripi latenk 
naueretdpek, a very great number of men are ap- 

But still greater is their want of numerals, 
which grammarians call ordinals, for they can- 
not count beyond first : Era namachit, the first. 
So that the Ten Commandments are reckoned in 
this way : the first commandment. Era ncima- 



chit; but as they are unable to express second, 
third, fourth, in their language, instead of these 
numbers, they place before the commandments, 
and another, and another, 8^0. Cat lahdua, cat la- 
h&ua, ^c. They have, however, words signi- 
fying first and last, Endm cahek, that which goes 
before, and Ihageh^k, that which comes last. 

They have only two distributive numerals : 
each Initaraph, and Imakataph, which answers 
to the Latin, bini. Lihoaka yahat, means twice. 
Ekdtarapek, and sometimes Haue ken, once. 
This is the extent of the Abiponian arithmetic, 
and the whole of their scanty supply of num- 
bers. Scarce richer are the Guarany Indians, 
who cannot go beyond the number four. They 
call One, Petey. Two, Mokoy. Three, Mbo- 
hapi. Four, Irundy. First, lyipihae. Second, 
Imomokoyndaba. Third, Imombohapihaba. Fourth, 
Imoimrundyhaba. *Singuli, Peteytey. Bini, Mo- 
koy mokoy. Terni, MbohdpihapL Quaterni, Irun-^ 
dy rundy. Once, Petey yebi. Twice, Mokoy 
yebi, (§'c. The Guaranies, like the Abipones, 
when questioned respecting a thing exceeding 
four, immediately reply, Ndipapahabi, or Ndi- 
papahai, innumerable. But as a knowledge of 
numbers is highly necessary in the uses of civi- 

* I give the original Latin in this and other placeS;, where the 
English does not fully express the meaning. 



lized life, and above all, in confession, the Gua- 
ranies were daily taught at church to count- 
in the Spanish language, in the public explana- 
tion, or recitation of the catechism. On Sun- 
day, the whole people used to count from one 
to a thousand, in the Spanish tongue, in the 
church. But it was all in vain. Generally 
speaking, we found the art of music, painting, 
and sculpture, easier learnt than numbers. They 
can all pronounce the numbers in Spanish, but 
are so easily and frequently confused in count- 
ing, that you must be very cautious how you 
credit what they say in this matter. 

For the conjugation of verbs, no paradigm 
can be given ; as the singular number of the 
present tense of the indicative mood differs in 
almost all words, and is more difficult to learn 
than the augments of the Greek verbs. The 
second person particularly takes new letters, 
not only in the beginning, but also in the mid- 
dle, and the end, as will appear from the exam- 
ples which I shall lay before you. 


I love 
Thou lovest 
He loves 




ff^e love 
Ye love 
They love 





I know 
I remember 

Riaraige Graaraige Yar0,ige 

Hakaleent Hakaleenclii Yakaleent 







I teach 








I hasten 

Rihahagalge Grahalgali 


I die 




I am drowned 




I leap 




I fear 




I desire 








I am drunk 




I am slow 



Naal . 

I am strong 




I am well 




I kick 




I eat 




I vomit 

Riemaletapek Gremalitapek 


I sleep 




I am ashamed 




I aim at the mark 




I value 




I am whipped 




I drink 




I tnake 




I obey 




I come to 




But these few are sufficient to show the in- 
finite changes of almost all verbs. I refrain 
from giving more examples which I have in my 
head; for it is not my intention to teach you 
the Abiponian language, but to show you the 
-strange construction of it, and to avoid fatiguing 



H'l nv' 

your ears with so many long savage words. 
From the little which I have written, you will 
collect that the inflexions and variations of the 
second person in particular can only be learnt 
by use, not by rules. The other tenses of the 
indicative mood, and indeed all the moods of 
every conjugation, give little trouble to learners, 
being formed simply by adding a few syllables, 
or particles, to the present of the indicative : 
for instance : — 

Present tense. Rikapit, I love. 

The imperfect is wanting. 

Preterite. Rikapit kan, or kanigra, I have loved, 

Preterpluperfect. Kdiiigra gehe rikapit, I had loved formerly. 

Future. Rikapitdm, I will love. 

You add the same particles to the second and 
third persons, without changing them in any 
other respect : thus — 

Grkapidii, thou lovest, 
Grkapichi kan, thou hast loved. 
Grkapichi kanigra gehe, thou hadst loved. 
Grkapichiain, thou yv\\t\o\Q. 

For the syllable mri is what distinguishes the 
present from the future. 

The imperative mood undergoes no mutation 
either in the present or future tense. Thus, 
hasten thou; Grahdlgali, which is also the 
second person of the indicative, thou hasten- 
est. Eichi, do thou : Gr^Jcapichi, love thou : 



or Grkapkhiam, which likewise signifies thou 
wilt love. They sometimes prefix the particle 
Tach to the second person of the imperative, 
and Tdk to the third: thus Tach grahapichl 
obey thou. Tach grakatrani, say thou. Tdk 
hanek, let him come : which also denotes the 
present of the potential ; thus : Tdk hanek 
Kadmelk, the Spaniard may come for me. Pro- 
hibition is expressed by the future with the 
addition of the particle tc/zzA; or chige, accord- 
ing to the following letter. Thus, thou mayst 
not kill, Chit kahamatraniam. Thou mayst not 
lie. Chit Noaharegraniam. 

The optative, or subjunctive, is formed of 
various particles, placed before or after the 
present of the indicative : as I shall show by 

Chigriek, would that. Chigriek grkapichi 
g'Dios eknam caogarik : Would that thou 
wouldst love God the Creator. Kef, if. Ket 
greenrani, G'Dios gy^kapichi ket: If thou wert 
good thou wouldst love God. Ket, if, is re- 
peated both in the condition and the condition- 

Amla, after that. Amla grkapichi g'Dios, 
Dios ^lo nkapichierodm : After thou hast loved 
God, God will love thee. Postquam amaveris 
Deum, Dens amabit te, 

Ehenhd, until. Ehenhd na chig7^kdpichi 



g'Dios, cMtl gihh groamketdpekd,m : Until, or 
as long as thou dost not love God, thou wilt 
never be quiet. Donee vel quamdiu non ama- 
veris Deum, non eris unquam quietus. 

Amamach, when. Amamach rikapichierottf lo 
grkdpichioam : When thou lovest me, I will 
love thee. Quando amavetis me, amabo te. 

Ket ynat, if. Ket mat nkdpichiriod, Id rikapitla 
ket : If they had loved me, I would have loved 
them. Si amassent me, amassem illos. 

Tach, that. Tach grkdpichioa, rikapichierodm : 
Love me, that I may love thee. Ama me, ut 
amem te. 

The Abipones seem to want the infinitive, the 
place of which they supply in other ways, as 
I shall more plainly show by examples, thus : 
now I wish to eat : La rihete nihakene. Rihe, or 
rihete, I wish, and hakehe, I eat, are both put in 
the same mood, tense, and person ; the letter 
M placed between them makes, or supplies the 
place of our infinitive. I cannot go, Haoahen 
mahik. Haoahen and ahik, are both in the first 
person of the present of the indicative, M only 
being placed between. Thou knowest not how 
to teach me : Chig graaraige niriapa grahi. Wilt 
thou be baptized, or, as the Abipones say, wilt 
thou have thy head washed ? Mik mich grehech 
m'nakarigi gremarachi ? 

They elude the necessity of an infinitive, of 





erunds, and supines, by various modes of speech 
peculiar to themselves. It may be as well to 
illustrate this by some examples. When we 
say, Can I go ? an Abipon would express it in 
this way : I will go. There is no difficulty, or 
is there any difficulty? Lahikam. Chigeeka 
loaik, or Mahiga loaik? Thou oughtest to go, 
an Abipon would render thus : Yoamkata ket, 
lame : It is right that thou shouldest go. Thou 
oughtest not to go, or it is not convenient : Mich 
grehech mamh? oagan chik yoamk: Wilt thou 
go ? though that is not convenient. How skil- 
ful this man is in swimming I an Abipon would 
express thus : What a swimmer this man is I 
Kemen dlarankachak yoale! I shall be strong by 
eating : Rihotam am hakene : I shall be strong 
whilst I eat. I come to speak to thee : Hee- 
chiapegrari; kleranam kaue, la naue : I will speak 
to thee ; that was the reason why I came now. 
The boy is wont to tell lies : La noaharegrank^n 
oenek. The particles ken and aage signify cus- 
tom. An Abipon would also express the above 
sentence in this way: Noaharegr an oenek: la 
laherek : The boy tells lies : now it is his custom. 
I am accustomed to pray : Klamach handy aagh 

The passive voice in affirming has no par- 
ticular form, but is expressed by some passive 





participle, or by active verbs. When vv^e say 
that a thing is lost or ended, they say that the 
thing has perished, ceased, does not appear, &c. 
Yidhak oaloa, or chitlgihe : The ox ha-th perished, 
or does not appear. In denying, the passive is 
explained by an active verb only, with the 
addition of the particle chigat, or chigichiekat : 
thus: It is not known: Chigat yaraigh. Yaraigh 
is the indicative mood, present tense, third 
person singular, of the active verb. That is not 
eaten : Chigat yaik. That is not usurped : 
Chigat eyga. I was not informed: Chigat ri- 
pachigui. The horses were not well guarded, 
therefore they perished : Machka chigat nkeha- 
yape end ahepega, maoge oaloSra. The stars 
cannot be counted : Chigichiekat nakathi eergrae. 
What is not known, ought not to be told. Am 
chigat yaraige, chigichiekat yaratapekam, ^c. 

Of many active verbs, both active, and pas- 
sive, but not future participles are formed. 
Rikapit, I love, amo. From it are formed : Yka- 
picheraty beloved by me, or my beloved ; a me 
amatus, mens a?natus. Grkapicherachi, thy be- 
loved, tiius amatus. Lkapicherat, his beloved : 
suus amatus. From this comes the feminine. 
Ykapichkath, my beloved; mea amata. Grka- 
pichkachi, thy beloved ; tua amata. Lkapichkate, 
his beloved, ilUus amata. I am beloved by all; 




ego sum amatus ab omnibus : LkapicheratS Kenoa- 
taoge. From this participle are derived, Kapi- 
chera, love, amor. Ykapichera, my love; amor 
meus. Kapichieraiky loving, a lover, amans, ama- 

Rikauaghy I pity, I feel a kindness for any one. 
Its passive participle is, Ykduagrat, kindly 
affected by me. Substantive, Ykaugra, my 
good-v\^ill. Kauagrankathy the instrument, man- 
ner, or place of good- will, or the benefit, itself. 
Kauagrankachaky benevolent, compassionate. 
Ykauagek, kindly regarded by me. Grkauagigt, 
kindly regarded by thee. 

Hapagranatrariy I teach. Napagranatranak, 
the master who teaches. Napagranatek, the 
scholar who is taught. Napagranatranreky 
teaching, instruction. Napagranatrankathy the 
place where, or the matter which the scholar is 

We now enter a labyrinth of the Abiponian 
tongue, most formidable to learners, where, 
unless guided by long experience, as Theseus 
was by Ariadne, you will not be able to walk 
without risk of error. I am speaking of those 
verbs which grammarians call transitive, or 
reciprocal. In our language, the action of one 
person, or thing, upon another, is easily de- 
scribed by the pronouns themselves, J, thouy he, 

N 2 



we, you. The Abipones, on the contrary, neg- 
lecting the use of the above pronouns, effect 
this by various inflections of the verbs, and by 
here and there combining new^ particles with 
them. This shall be made plainer by examples. 
/ love thee, thou lovest me, he loves me or thee. 
We love him, ye love us or them. The Latins, in 
this manner, express mutual love, to which 
purpose the Abipones use much circumlocution, 
and various artifices, thus : Rikapit, I love. 
Rikapichieroa, I love thee. Grkapichioa, thou 
lovest me. Nkapichioa, he loves me. Nkapich- 
ieroa, he loves thee. Grkapitae, we love him. 
Grkapitla, we love them. Matmkapitalta, I love 
myself. Nikapichialta, thou lovest thyself. 
Grkapitaata, we love one another. But would 
that this were a paradigm of all the verbs! 
Others take other particles, and changes of syl- 
lables, thus : 

Rikauagh, I pity. Rikauagyegarigh, I pity 
thee. Grkauagiyge, thou pitiest me. Grka- 
uag yegarik, thou pitiest us. Nkaudgigyh, he 
pities me. Nkaudg yegarige, he pities thee. 
Nkauagegh, he pities him. Grkauagekdpegetad, 
we pity one another. Nikauakdltad I pity 

Hapagrmiatran, I teach. Neapagran, I teach 
myself. Hapagrankatdpegetd, we teach one 



another. Hapagrani, I teach thee. Ridpagrani, 
thou teachest me. Riapagran, he teaches me. 
Yapagran, he teaches him. 

Hamelk, I whip. Hdmelgi, I whip thee. 
Ridmelgi, thou whippest me. Riamelk, he whips 
me. Gramelgi, he whips thee. Yamilk, he 
whips him. 

Hakleente, I remember. Hakleenchitdpegrari, 
I remember thee. Hakleenchitapegii, thou re- 
memberest me. Ydkleentetdpegii, he remem- 
bers me. From these instances, you will per- 
ceive the variation in transitive verbs, as some- 
times eroa, sometimes yegarige, sometimes rari, 
or other particles, must be added to the different 
persons. Believe me, the learning of them is 
extremely tedious to Europeans, and can only 
be effected by long acquaintance with these 
savages. Other Americans also use these tran- 
sitive verbs, but their form is the same, whether 
mutual action or passion is expressed. Thus 
the Guaranies say, Ahaihii, I love. OrohathUy 
I love thee. Ayukdy I kill. Oroyukd, I kill 
thee. Amboe, I teach. Oromboe, I teach thee, 
&c. What can be easier or more expeditious 
than this ? 

They sometimes express the relative who, by 
eknam, or, in the plural number, enonarriy thus : 
Dios eknam Kaogarik: God who is the creator, 

N 3 



Hemokdchin nau&chieka, enonam yapochi: I esteem 
soldiers who are brave. Sometimes, in the 
manner of the Latins, they suppress the rela- 
.tive who, and supply its place by a participle, 
or adjective. Ridkaya netegingd oakaika, kach 
■quend ahamraeka : I abominate biting and dead 

'i^':; !!i 






At this moment, I am doubtful whether to 
call the language of the Abipones a poor or a 
rich one: after I have told you what words 
they want, and what they abound in, you your- 
self shall decide on this point. The Abipones 
are destitute of some words which seem to be 
the elements of daily speech. They, as well as 
the Guaranies, want the verb substantive to be. 
They want the verb to have. They have no 
words whereby to express mariy body, God, place, 
time, never, ever, everywhere, &c. which occur 
perpetually in conversation. Instead of I am 
an Abipon, they say Aym Abipon, I Abipon ; 
instead of thou art a plebeian, Akami Lamraik, 
thou plebeian. They often substitute some 
neuter verb for an adjective and verb substan- 
tive, like the Latins, who say bene valeo as well 
as sum sanus. Thus, I am strong, Riahdt, thou 
art strong, Grihochi, he is strong, Yhdt. I am 
brave, Riapdt, thou art brave, Grapochi, he is 
brave, Yapdt. I am fearful, Riakald, thou art 
fearful, Grakaloi, he is fearful, Yakald. Let the 

N 4 ^ ■ 



Spaniard come, I shall be brave: Tach hanek 

Kadmelk, la riapotam. See how well the Abi- 

pones do without the verb to be! as also the 

verb to have. I have many horses: Ayte yla 

ahepega: many horses mine. I have many fleas : 

Netegink loapakate end! Pop. I have no meat: 

Chitkaeka Ipabh. I have no fishes: Chigekoa 

i ndayi. Heka has the same meaning with the 

Abipones that datur or suppetit has with the 

Latins, es giebet with the Germans, and hay with 

the Spaniards. Chitkaeka is a negative, and 

signifies that there is no meat, fishes, &c. In 

the plural number it changes to chigekoa. Is 

t\iexQ ioo^l Mekakandk? 

Neoga means a day, and likewise time. 
Grauek, the moon, is taken for a month. 
Yniera, the flower of the alfaroba, also denotes 
a year. Hence, when they wish to ask any one 
how old he is, they say. How many times has 
the alfaroba blossomed during your life-time? 
Hegem leyera yniegari ? which is a very poetical 
expression. For the body they name the 
skin or bone, thus taking the part for the 
whole. Yoalh means only a husband ; it is how- 
ever used to signify a man. In the same way 
the Guaranies use the word Aba, which denotes 
a husband, and the Guarany nation, as they 
have no word for man. Aba che has three 
meanings, I am a Guarany, I am a inan, or I am 



a husband; which of these is meant, must be ga- 
thered from the tenor of the conversation. Per- 
haps there are nowhere more virgins than in 
the country of the Abipones, yet they cannot 
express a virgin except by a paraphrase, as 
/jfl^j/^ simply means a young girl. For never, 
they say chik or chit, thus, I shall never go 
hence: Chik rihiukam. They more frequently 
say, Chitlgihe rihiukam. Chitlgihe means, there 
appears no time in which I shall go hence. 
They express ete?^nal by interminable, thus: 
Life eternal, Eleyra chit kataikani, the life which 
is not finished. We used the Spanish word for 
God, whose name they are ignorant of: Dios, 
eknam Kaogarik, or Naenatranak hipigem, kachka 
aald. God, who is the maker of all things, or 
the creator of heaven and earth. Kauh signifies 
to make ; Kaogarik, a maker. They call eggs 
Tetarik Vkauete, the hen's work. 

They cannot express everywhere in one word, 
but explain it in this way : God is in heaven, in 
earth, and there is not a place in which he is not ; 
Menetahegem quern hipigem, menetani quen aaloa, 
ka chigekdr ama, chig enae. I omit innumerable 
other words which they want, but which they 
make up for in various ways. Many things 
which we always express with one and the same 
word, they distinguish with various names, or 
entirely transform, by clothing the original word 

I , 



with new particles. After having exposed the 
poverty of this language by examples, I ought 
briefly to make you acquainted with its richness, 
in the same manner. 

It contains an incredible number of syno- 
nymes, thus: Kachergaik, Kamergaik, Kereraik, 
Q,nd Lai/kamS, all signify an old man. Eloraik, 
Egargaik, Ahamraik, and Chitkaeka Lack, dead. 
Nahamatrek, Nuichiera, Notlakierek, ^\\dAmgla, 
war. Kinierat, Handk, Naka, and Naek, food. 
Lemarat and Lapanik, the head. Hipigem and 
Ohajejik, heaven. Chigriaraik, Taagh, Uriaka 
Nta, Chig netuuy and Akamitahi, I know not, 
which last is the same as if one should reply to 
a question. Thou thyself know st it, thus acknow- 
ledging his own ignorance. They sometimes 
repeat the words of the interrogator, to show 
that they do not know what he asks about. They 
call a wound generically Lalagkt, If it be in- 
flicted by the teeth of a man or a beast, they 
call it Naagek; if by a knife or a sword, Ni- 
charhek; if by a lance, Noarek; if by an arrow, 
Nainek. They fight, if the kind of fight be not 
expressed, would be rendered RoHakitapegeta ; 
if they fight with spears, Nahamreta; if with 
arrows, Natenetdpegeta ; if with fists, Nemarke- 
tdpegetd; if with words alone, Ycherikdleretact ; 
if two wives fight about their husband, NeJS- 
tentd. They signify that a thing is ended or 




finished in divers ways. The sickness is ended, 
would be rendered Layamini; the rain, the moon, 
the cold is ended, i^w^wrew^e neeth, grauek, 
latara; the war is ended, Nahdlani anegla; the 
.Spanish soldiers are ended, that is slaughtered; 
LanamicMrini Kaama yoaliripi; my patience is 
ended, Lanamouge yapik; the storm is ended, 
Layamha; he hath ended his office, his magis- 
tracy hath expired. La yauerelgh end, or 
finish thy work, Grahdlgali, laamachi graenategi; 
now the thing is finished, Layam ayam; at the 
end of the world, Amla hanamrani. If a battle 
is fought with arrows, it is c^A^d. Noatarek ; if 
with spears, Noaararanrek, or Nahamatrek; if 
with fists alone, Nemarketrek. This word re- 
minds me of a ludicrous occurrence. A certain 
Bavarian lay-brother of our's stayed some time 
in the new colony of St. Ferdinand to build a 
hut for the Missionaries. Whilst he was em- 
ployed in building, he daily had the Abipones 
for spectators, and heard them talk, without un- 
derstanding a syllable of what they were say- 
ing. As he continually caught the words A^^- 
hamatrek, Noatarek, and many others ending 
in trek, one day at dinner he said to Father 
Joseph Brigniel, an Austrian, with much sim- 
plicity, ** Never trust me, if the language of the 
Abipones isn't as like German as one egg is to 
another ; I often hear them say Trek, Trek:\ 



The Abiponian tongue might not improperly 
be called the language of circumstances, for it 
affixes various particles to words to denote the 
various situations of the subject of discourse : 
either /ie^ew, above; am, below; aigit, SiYound; 
hagam, in the water ; duge, out of doors ; alge, 
or elge, on the surface, &c. The thing will be 
made plainer by examples : we use the same 
word is when we say, God is in heaven, is on 
earth, is in the water, is every where. The 
Abipones always add some new particle to the 
verb, to indicate situation, thus : Dios meneta- 
hegem ken hipigem, God dwells above in heaven : 
menetahi ken aaloa, dwells below in the earth : 
mehetahagam ken enarap, dwells in the water, 
&c.. Here the particles ani, hegem, and haganl 
are affixed to the verb menetd. But now attend 
to something else. How great is the variation 
of the verb to follow*! I follow a person coming, 
Haiiiretaiglt. I fallow one departing, Hauiraa. 
I follow with my hand what is beneath me, 
Hauirahi, what is above me, Hauirihegemeege. 
I do not follow with my eyes. Chit heonaage. 
I do not follow with my understanding, (I do 
not comprehend,) Chig hetunetaiglt. I follow, I 
hit with an arrow, Naten. Some going out 
follow others, Yduerdata, or Yauiretapegetd, 




I have followed, or perceived what another me- 
ditates or purposes in his mind, La hdui lare- 
mtranrek laud. I have- followed or obtained 
what I desired, La ham eka kan ahelranrat kihi. 
Hear other examples : I fear, Rietacka. I fear 
water, Rietachahagam. It lightens, Rkdhagelk. 
It lightens afar off, Rkdhagelkdtaigit. It shines; 
Richdk. It shines on the surface, Rkhdkatalgh. 
The brightness spreads wide, Richakataugb. I 
open the door towards the street, Hehdtouge 
laham. I open the door tov/ards the window, 
Hehdtod lahdm. If I should open two doors at the 
same time, Hehdtetelgh lahdm. Shut the door, 
Apeegi lahdm. I die, Riigd. Iditn dying, Riiga- 
rari, I die of suffocation, Riigarani, &c. &c. 

We now come to speak of other particles, the 
use of which is very frequent amongst the Abi- 


They prefix la, now, to almost all words. 
Now the old woman weeps. La redkatari cacher- 
gayh. Now I am terrified. La rielk. Now I 
drink. La nanam. 

Tapek, or Tart, annexed to the last syllable of 
a verb, denote an action which is undertaken 
now: Hakiriogran, I plough land. Hakiriogra- 
netapek, now, whilst I speak, I am ploughing. 
Haoachin, I am sick. Haoachinetari, I am sick 
at this very time. 

Kachit, I make. Arairaik ahepegak, a tame 



horse. Arairaikachit ahepegak, T make a horse 
tame. RiHk, I fear. Rielkachit nihlrenak, a 
tiger put me in fear. Ayerhhgemegh, a high 
thing. Ayercachihhgemegh, I make a thing high, 
I put it in a high place. 

Rat, or ran has the same signification as the 
former in certain verbs. Rpah enarap, hot wa- 
ter. Hapaerat enarap, I heat water. Laa, great, 
large. Laararat, I increase. Lenechi, little, 
small. Lenechitarat, I diminish. Haoath, I 
sleep. Haoacheran akiravalk, I make a little 
infant sleep. 

Ken denotes custom or habit. Roelakikhn, he 
is accustomed to fight. 

Aagh affixed to the substantives Laherek, 
work, or Yadrairhk, knowledge, likewise denotes 
custom. Nhoga lathnk nahametapek ; gramackka 
laherekaage, or Mat yadrairhk aage, he drinks all 
day : this, to wit, is his occupation ; it is his 
knowledge ; in a word his custom. 

It signifies the material of which anything is 
made. Nichigeherit is a cloak made of otters' 
skins, for Nkhigehh is the Abiponian for otter. 
Kdeperit, a place fortified with stakes fixed in 
the earth, (which the Spaniards call la palisada, 
or estacada,) kdepak, signifying wood. 

Hat indicates the native soil of certain trees, 
or fruits. Nebokehat, a wood where palms 



grow. Nehoke is a kind of palm. Nemelkehaty 
a field sowed with wheat, which is called ne- 
melk. The Guaranies make use of the same 
compendious expression, substituting ti for the 
particle haty thus: Abati, maize. Abatiti, a 
maize-field. Pefi, tobacco. Petindi, a place 
where tobacco is grown. For the sake of the 
euphony, to which the Guaranies are particu- 
larly attentive, ndi is substituted for ti. 

Ik. The names of almost all trees end in this 
syllable. Apehe, the fruit chaiiar. Apehik, the 
tree. Oaik, the white alfaroba. Roak, the red. 
The trees which produce it, Odikik, and Roai- 
kik. Though the alfaroba is also called Ha-^ 


Reki signifies the vessel, place, or instrument 
in which any thing is shut up, kept, or con- 
tained. Nanamreki, a cup, from nanam, I drink. 
Neetrki signifies the same thing : for neht and 
naMm are synonimous. Kataranreki, an oven, 
a chafing-dish, from Nkdatek, fire. Keyeerdn- 
fekiy a tub in which clothes are washed with 
soap, for keyararirat is their word for soap. 

Layt has almost the same signification as the 
former particle. Yabogek layt, a snuff'-box, ya- 
bogSk being Abiponian for snuff". Ahepegrlayt, 
a fold for horses. 

Land is a very useful word, and often serves 
as a sacred anchor, which beginners, slightly 



acquainted with the language, catch hold of to 
make themselves understood. It means that 
which is the instrument, means, or part of per- 
forming any thing. This shall be elucidated by 
examples. The Abipones constantly chew to- 
bacco leaves mixed with salt, and the saliva of 
old women, calling it medicine. They come at 
all hours, and say, Tach kaue Pay 7ipeethk yoeta : 
Father, give me tobacco leaves, my medicine. 
Having obtained this, they presently add, Tach 
kaue achibiraik noeta lana: Give me also salt, 
which serves to compose this medicine. Another 
comes and says: Tachkaue lataran Ipahh lana: 
Give me a knife to cut my meat with, or Tach- 
kaue keepeyeeriki lana: Give me an axe to build 
my house with. Persons better acquainted 
with the language generally abstain from the 
use of this word lana, in place of which they 
make noun substantives of verbs, by which the 
instrument or means of doing a thing is ad- 
mirably expressed. Thus, Noetarhn, I am 
healed. Noetarendtaranrdt, medicine. Noeta- 
ranatarankatl, a medical instrument. Hakirio- 
gran, I plough. Kiriogrankath, a plough. Na- 
hategran, I shear. Ahategkath, scissars, or snuf- 
fers, which, as it were, shear the wick. G6hayd, 
I behold. Geharlath, a looking-glass. Rietachd, 
I fear. Netachkatranrat, an instrument of ter- 
ror. They facetiously call remarkably ugly 



fates by this name as if they were a terror to 
the eyes. 

Lath, indicates the place of action, thus : iV^- 
hamdtralate, the place of the fight. Kinieralath, 
the place where one eatsy that is, the table. 

They ingeniously invented names borrowed 
from their native tongue, for things introduced 
from Europe, or made by Europeans. They 
did not like either to appear poor in words, or 
to contaminate their language by adopting 
foreign ones, like the other Americans who bor- 
row words from the Spaniards. Horses, which 
the Spaniards call cavallos, the Guaranies call 
cavayii, and oxen, which the Spaniards call no- 
billos, they call nobl. The Abipones, on the con- 
trary, call a horse ahepegak, an ox, yuihaky and a 
h\x\\, yuihak lepa, an uncastrated ox, a name de^ 
rived from their own language, though, before 
the coming of the Spaniards, they were un- 
acquainted with these animals. They call a 
church loakal Iceriki, the house of images, or 
natamenreki, where thanks are given to God. 
A gun is expressed by netelranre, which means 
a bow from which arrows are cast. Perhaps it 
is derived from the word neeth, a storm, because 
a gun resembles the thundering of a storm. Gun- 
powder is called netelranre leenra, the flour of 
the gun ; a book, lakatka, which means a word, 
tongue, speech. They call a letter, or any 





sheet with letters written or printed on it, 
elorka, by which name they also designate the 
otters' skins painted by women with red lines 
of various forms, of which cloaks are made to 
keep out the cold. They call water-melons, 
Kacima lakh, the food of the Spaniards. They 
express a soul, a shadow, echo, and an image, 
all by the same word, lodkal, or Ikihi. The 
Latins also used the word imago, for an echo. 
Valerius Flaccus, in the third book of the Ar- 
gonautics, says : 

Rursus Hylam, et rursus Hylam per longa redamat 
Avia, responsant sylvx, et vaga certat imago. 

Echo is a representation of voice, as an image 
is that of the figure. Cotton, the material of 
which cloth is made, they call aaparaik, cloth ; 
wheat, etajitd Ipeta, the grain of bread; and 
bullets, netelrafire Ipeta, the grain of the gun, 
or Kdama lanarha, the arrows of the Spaniards. 
A lute or harp is called liidgi, which means the 
loins of an animal ; all -metals, lekat, and silver 
money, lekachdole, little metals ; hell, aald la- 
bachiniy the centre of the earth, or Keevk leeriki, 
the devil's house ; a shirt, yelamrkie ; stockings 
or boots, lichil lelamrkih ; breeches, ykiemarha ; 
shoes, yachrhdrlath ; a hat, iaoara ; a fillet, 
mitre, or any covering of the head, yetapehh ; 
glass-beads, ekelraye. I omit the rest. 

Metaphors are familiar to these Savages. 



When they have the head-ache they cry Ld, 
yivichigi yemarat, now my head is angry. When 
fatigued with manual labour, La yivichigi yaui- 
gra, now my blood is angry, they exclaim with 
a smile. When in anger, they say, La anahegem 
yauel, now my heart hath risen. When impa- 
tient at any inconvenience, they vociferate : La 
lanamouge yaplk, now my patience is ended, now 
I will bear this no longer. 

Although the Guaranies and many other 
people of America have none but post-positions 
in their language, the Abipones use prepositions 
likewise. Thus the Guaranies, in making the 
sign of the cross, say : Tuba hah layra, hat Es- 
piritu Santo vera pipe. Amen. In the name of 
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy 
Ghost. Amen. For pipe means in, and vera 
name with them. The Abipones, on the con- 
trary, say : Men lakaldtoht Neta, hat Nditarat, 
kachka Espiritu Santo. Amen. In the name of 
the Father, and of the Son, &c. Men signify- 
ing in, and lakaldtoht, a name. Men, mek, ken, 
or en kerd, signifies in or at, either with or 
without motion. Men aaloa, men hipigem, in 
the earth, in heaven. Lahik ken nepdrk, now 
I go to the plain. La rihi mek Kadma loetd, now 
I remove to the lands of the Spaniards. They 
are unacquainted with the preposition with 
which denotes society: they would express the 

o 2 



sentence, I will go with thee, in this manner : Gra- 
hauitapekam, I will accompany thee : or thus. 
La me? Clachkehifi, wilt thou go away? I also. 
The Lord with thee : Dios Gnoakara hihitaroat : 
The Lord is associated with thee. Haraa is 
a preposition signifying the instrument with 
which a thing is done. Yoale yahdmat nihiy^enak 
naraa lohHete: The Indian killed the tiger with 
a spear. Ydgam means, as, or like. Roaha 
yagam netegink : He attacks like a dog. 

Adjectives themselves are generally used in- 
stead of adverbs ; both, according as they relate 
to past, or future, are variously inflected, like 
verbs : thus, aiiaik and nebn signify both good 
and well. Kemen ariaik kan! how good, or 
how well he was. Kan is the sign of the past 
tense. Ariaekam, it will be good or well. Am 
is the sign of the future, and kitb means now. 
Kitekdn, it was now. Kit dm, it shall be now 
presently. If you wish to enquire about a thing 
past, you must say : hegmalagh, when ? If 
about a future thing, hegmalkdm. For the past, 
they will answer, nehegetoh, long since; hd- 
kekemdt, now, at this point of time; chigahdk, 
not yet; kitneoga, to day; kitnenegm, or 
kitnehaol, this night; gnadma, yesterday. For 
the future, amd, amlayerge, chitlkihe, after a 
long interval of time ; amid, afterwards ; am ri- 
chigni, to morrow; amtktre Idhaua, the day 
after to-morrow; arn ndama, in the evening. 



And is expressed by Rachka, Rack, or Rat, ac- 
cording to the letters that follow. All univer- 
sally call no, 1/nd : but yes is expressed vari- 
ously, according to the age and sex of the 
speaker. Men and youths say, heS; all wo- 
men, haa. Old men affirm by a loud snort, 
which can only be expressed viva voce, though 
you could not do it easily and clearly without 
danger of hoarseness. The louder the snort 
the stronger the affirmation. 

Eiirigri, edrat, and miekaenegen, mean why, 
for what reason. Mieka tnegen nkaue, nauichi 
ena ? What was the reason that you came ? 
Men is a particle of interrogation, having the 
same signification as the Latin an. Men leer a ? 
Is it true ? Klera, it is certain.^ Chigera, it is 
not true. Or if they doubt of the truth of the 
thing, they will reply, Eurinigi, Sometimes, 
when they suspect another of relating what is 
not true, they join the past with the future, and 
ironically say, Kdnigra leeram, formerly, that 
will be true. Kdnigra is the past, and leeram 
the future. 

The letter M prefixed to a word denotes 
interrogation, thus : M'ayte nauachieka ? Are 
there many soldiers ? M'oachihi, Art thou sick? 
If the first letter following M be a consonant or 
an H, it is dropped, M'anekam ena ? Will he 
come hither ? The H is entirely omitted in the 




verb hanekam, will he come, and it is pro- 
nounced manekdm. Mauichi kena? Hast thou 
€ome hither ? The letter N is dropped in the 
verb nauichi, and M substituted, so that it is 
called mauichi. Mik alone, or mik mich, are 
forms of interrogation ; as Mik mich grihochi ? 
Art thou in good health ? Sometimes an inter- 
rogation is expressed by the accent alone, and 
by the raising of the voice. Layam nauichi'? 
Art thou come at length ? Origeena and morigi' 
are v^ords of interrogation, expressing, at the 
same time, doubt: Morigi npdgak oenek? Per- 
haps the youth is ashamed ? Hegmi hinnerkam ? 
What is it after all ? Orkeenam, I do not know 
what it can be. 

Latdm means almost. Latdm riygeranl : He 
was very near being drowned. Latam riahdmat 
yuihdk : the ox had almost killed me. Yt, or 
ych, means only, alone. Tachkaueyt lenechiavdlk : 
Give me only a little of any thing. Mat, or gra- 
machka, means lastly. They use this word, in 
affirming any thing with serious asseveration, or 
with boasting. Gramachka Abipon yapochi; 
'lastly the Abipones are brave. Eneha mat 
yoale: this, lastly, is the man. Chik, chit, and 
chichi, are words of prohibition, as ne with the 
Latins. Chik grakalakitrani : Thou shouldst not 
doubt. Chichi maharegrani : Thou shouldst 
not lie. Klatiim kehi means although, and 




oagariy yet, however. Eneha klatwn kehn euenek, 
oagan netackaik : Though this man is beautiful, 
yet he is cowardly. Tan means because, and 
mdoge, therefore. Tan ayte apatdye ken nepark, 
mdoge chik ddthkan: Because there are many 
gnats in the plain, therefore I have not slept. 
Men, men, mean as, so. Men netd, men naetarat, 
As the father, so the son. 

They have various exclamations of wonder, 
grief, joy, &c. Kemen apalaik akami! How 
stingy and tenacious of thy own property thou 
art ! Kemen nadchik, or Kimili nadchik ! Oh ! 
how useful this will be to me ! is their way of 
thanking you for a gift ; for neither the Abi- 
pones nor Guaranies have any word whereby 
to express thanks. What wonder, since grati- 
tude is unknown, even by name, among them, 
that they do not display it their actions ? For, 
as some one observed, they think benefits like 
flowers — only pleasant as long as they are 
fresh. One repulse entirely effaces the me- 
mory of former benefits from the minds of the 
Indians. The Guaranies, on receiving a gift, 
use the same phrase, and say, Aquiyebete dngd : 
This will be useful to me. The Abipones, after 
obtaining what they ask, sometimes thanked 
the giver with nothing but the word Kliri : This 
is what I wanted. In wonder or compassion, 
they exclaim, Kem ekemat ! Ta yeegaml or 




Ndrh ! (which they usually say when astonished 
at any sudden novelty,) and Tayreta ! Oh ! the 
poor little thing ! 

But these examples are sufficient to show 
you the asperities, difficulties, and strange 
construction of the Abiponian tongue. Were 
I to embrace every thing necessary to the 
thorough understanding of it, I should fill a 
volume. Father Joseph Brigniel, the first civi- 
lizer of that nation, was also the first to turn hi§ 
attention towards learning, and afterwards ex- 
plaining this language. He translated the chief 
heads of religion, and the regular church 
prayers, into the Abiponian tongue, for the use 
of the whole nation. It is incredible what 
pains he took in this study ; and his patience, 
and the retentiveness of his memory, were ab- 
solutely iron. Though he spoke Latin, Ger- 
man, French, Italian, and Spanish, as well as 
the language of the Guaranies, whose apostle 
he had formerly been, with elegance and flu- 
ency, being well versed in six different lan- 
guages, yet he found it a difficulty to gain even 
a smattering of the Abiponian tongue. He left 
no stone unturned to fish out the names of 
things, and the inflexions, and force of the 
words. But though he was extremely eager to 
obtain a knowledge of the language, and spared 
no pains in the pursuit, masters and books were 



both wanting. There were, indeed, Spaniards 
who, having been taken captives by the Abi- 
pones in their boyhood, had learnt the Abipo- 
nian tongue, but they had generally forgotten 
the language of their own country ; while those 
who fell in captivity amongst the savages, after 
they had grown up, had learnt their language 
so ill that they scarce spoke a word without 
blundering. By degrees they forget their own 
language, but are incapable of properly ac- 
quiring any other. The same may be said in 
regard to the Abipones, who have returned to 
their own people after being for some time cap- 
tives amongst the Spaniards. You will, there- 
fore, sooner learn to err than to speak from the 
captives. But if we were able to hire any one 
of them to instruct us who was tolerably well 
acquainted with both languages. Good hea- 
vens! what troubles had we not to undergo! 
When asked what the Abipones called such 
or such a thing, he would reply in so low and 
dubious a tone, that we were not able to 
distinguish a syllable, or even a letter. If we 
asked him to repeat the same word two or three 
times over, he grew angry, and would not speak. 
Scarce was the hour of instruction ended, when 
he required the reward for the few words he 
has pronounced : one day a knife ; the next a 
pair of scissars ; the next glass-beads ; the next 

*' I 



something of more value. If we denied him 
what he asked, he would never visit us again ; 
if we gave it, he was daily emboldened to ask 
things of still more value. Great is the misery 
of the scholar when masters are either scarce or 
too dear. I do not deny that, by daily conver- 
sation with the Indians, I learnt the names of 
those things which are present to the eyes; 
but invisible things, which relate to God and 
the soul, can only be learnt by conjecture and 
very long use. When horses, tigers, or arms, 
are talked of, you will find any of the Abipones 
a Demosthenes or a Tully : if the question turn 
on the affections and functions of the mind, and 
the practice of virtue, they will either give you 
answers darker than night, or remain silent. 

When we were studying the Guarany tongue, 
grammars and three dictionaries were published 
by Fathers Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, and 
Paulo Restivo, a Sicilian, which saved us a 
great deal of time and labour. By their assist- 
ance our progress was so much accelerated 
that, at the end of three months, we were per- 
mitted to confess the Guaranies by order of 
four of the older Jesuits, who, at the command 
of the superiors, closely examined our know- 
ledge in the language. But as the assistance 
of books was vv^anting amongst the Abipones, 
Joseph Brigniel made up for the deficiency by 



all possible arts and industry. If any new 
word or elegance could be gathered from the 
conversation of the savages, he carefully wrote 
it down, and at length composed a dictionary, 
which, in course of time, grew to a hundred 
and fifty sheets. It was afterwards copied out, 
corrected, and considerably enriched by mem- 
bers of our society. It is easy to add to what 
is begun; for the successors, sitting on the 
shoulders of those that preceded them, see far- 
ther, and more than they. Pizarro penetrated 
into Peru, and Cortez into Mexico, but not till 
Columbus, who first saw America, had shown 
them the way. The Jesuit Brigniel first dis- 
covered the track to be pursued amid the dim 
shades of a savage language, made himself a 
guide to the rest, and, to express myself in few 
words, merits eternal fame for having kindled 
a Hght amidst darkness, by pointing out the 
rude lineaments of grammar rules. 

The Abiponian language is involved in new 
difficulties by a ridiculous custom which the 
savages have of continually abolishing words 
common to the whole nation, and substituting 
new ones in their stead. Funeral rites are the 
origin of this custom. The Abipones do not 
like that any thing should remain to remind 
them of the dead. Hence appellative words 
bearing any affinity with the names of the de- 



ceased are presently abolished. During the 
first years that I spent amongst the Abipones, 
it was usual to say Hegmalkam kahamdtek? 
When will there be a slaughtering of oxen ? On 
account of the death of some Abipon, the word 
kahamdtek was interdicted, and, in its stead, 
they were all commanded, by the voice of a 
cryer, to say, Hegmalkam negerkatd ? The word 
nihirenak, a tiger, was exchanged for apani- 
gehak; peue, a crocodile, for kaeprhak, and Kad- 
ma, Spaniards, for Rikil, because these words 
bore some resemblance to the names of Abi- 
pones lately deceased. Hence it is that our 
vocabularies are so full of blots, occasioned by 
our having such frequent occasion to obliterate 
interdicted words, and insert new ones. Add 
to this another thing which increases the diffi- 
culty of learning the language of the Abipones. 
Persons promoted to the rank of nobles are 
called Hecheri, and Nelereycath, and are distin- 
guished from the common people even by their 
language. They generally use the same words, 
but so transformed by the interposition, or ad- 
dition of other letters, that they appear to be- 
long to a different language. The names of men 
belonging to this class, end in In ; those of the 
women, vv^ho also partake of these honours, in 
En. These syllables you must add even to 
substantives and verbs in talking with them. 



The sentence, This horse belongs to Captain 
Debayakaikin, would be rendered by an Abi- 
pon, speaking the vulgar tongue, in this man- 
ner : Ejieha ahepegak Debayakaikin lela. But in 
the language of the Hecheri you must say, De- 
bayakaikin lilin. They salute a plebeian with 
La nauichi ? Art thou come ? to which he re- 
plies La mice, I am come. If a noble person is 
addressed, he must be saluted in these words ; 
Ld, nauirin, Art thou come ? and he, with much 
importance, and pompous modulation of his 
voice, will reply. La nauerinkie, I am come. 
Moreover, they have some words peculiar to 
themselves, by which they supersede those in 
general use. Thus, the common people call a 
mother. Late, the nobles, Lichid. The former 
call a son LaStarat, the latter Lllaltk, not to 
mention other instances. Both in the explana- 
tion of religion, and in common conversation, 
we chose to use the vulgar tongue, because it 
was understood by all. 

I have said that there are three kinds of Abi- 
pones, the Riikahes, the NakaikStergehes, and the 
Yaaukanigas. All of them, however, speak 
the same language ; all understand each other, 
and are understood. Yet each of these classes 
has some words peculiar to itself. The Riikahes 
call gnats ayte ; the Nakaiketergehes apataye. 
Both names are extremely suitable to gnats, for 



I :i 

ayte means many, and apatdye is derived from 
napata, a mat, which they use to cover their 
tents with; and so great is the multitude of 
gnats in the lands of the Abipones that the 
inhabitants seem not only covered but op- 
pressed by them. To drink with the Riikahes 
is expressed by neet, with the Nakaiketergehes 
by naham. The latter call a head Lapanik, 
the former Lemarat. The Yaaucanigas, in the 
use of words, sometimes imitate one, sometimes 
the other; but in a few they differ from both. 
The rest call the moon Grauek, but they, by 
antonomasia, name it Eergraik, a star. The 
rainbow is called by the rest, Odheta, but by 
the Yaaucanigas, Apich. But this variety cre- 
ates neither difficulty nor wonder. The Teu- 
tonic language is used by many nations, but 
how greatly does it differ in different provinces, 
not only in dialect but also in words ! How 
different is Tuscan from the languages spoken 
at Milan, Savoy, and Venice ! How different is 
Castilian from the languages of Arragon, An- 
dalusia, Navarre, and Valencia ! 


Whenever an Abipon thinks fit to choose a 
wife, he must bargain with the parents of the 
girl about the price to be payed for her. Four 
or more horses, strings of beads made of glass 
or snail-shells, a woollen garment of various 
colours, woven like a Turkish carpet, a spear 
furnished with an iron point, and other articles 
of this kind, are paid by the bridegroom. It 
frequently happens that the girl rescinds what 
had been settled and agreed upon between the 
parents and the bridegroom, obstinately reject- 
ing the very mention of marriage. Many girls, 
through fear of being compelled to marry, have 
concealed themselves in the recesses of woods 
or lakes ; seeming to dread the assaults of tigers 
less than the untried nuptials. Some of them, 
just before they are to be brought to the bride- 
groom's house, fly to the chapel, and there, 
hidden behind the altar, elude the threats and 
the expectation of the unwelcome bridegroom. 

Let us suppose the Abiponian bride to have 
acquiesced in her parents' wishes with regard to 



her marriage ; without the observance of other 
ceremonies usual elsewhere, she is conducted, 
not without pomp, to the tent of her spouse. 
Eight girls hold up a beautiful garment like a 
carpet in their hands, by way of a shade, under 
which the bride goes, full of bashfulness, with 
her eyes fixed upon the ground, preserving a 
pensive silence, spectators being scattered 
around. After having been received by her 
spouse, and kindly saluted, she is brought back 
by her hordesmen to her father's house, in the 
same manner, and with the same attendants as 
she left it; whence, in a second and a third 
journey, she brings the gourds, pots, pans, and 
the weaving-machine, under a shade, to her hus- 
band's tent, and after a very short conversation 
returns to the house of her parents, where the 
bridegroom is forced to go to take his food and 
pass the night : for the mothers are so care- 
ful of their daughters, that even when they 
are married they can hardly bear to part from 
them, and deliver them immediately into the 
power of another. After they have satisfied 
themselves of the probity of their son-in-law, or 
after the birth of a child, they suffer them to 
live in a separate house. These are the scanty 
rites of the Abiponian nuptials, which however 
are sometimes gladdened by a compotation on 
the part of the men. Sometimes a drum is 

i } 



Struck by a boy seated on the top of a tent 
to proclaim the nuptials. The bride's being co- 
vered with a skreen when she is conducted to 
the bridegroom's house, resembles the Roman 
fashion of veiling the heads of the women, when 
they were given to their husbands, with a yellow 
or flame-coloured veil, whence the word nup- 

Gumilla relates, in his History of the river 
Orinoco, that there is one nation which marries 
old men to girls, and old women to youths, that 
age may correct the petulance of youth. For, 
they say, that to join young persons equal in 
youth and imprudence in wedlock together, is 
to join one fool to another. The marriage of 
young men with old women is a kind of 
apprenticeship, which after they have served 
for some months, they are permitted to marry ' 
women of their own age. 

>ysf|h ■ 






We know that a plurality of wives, or the re- 
pudiation of them, was familiar to the Hebrews 
and other nations, and that it is tolerated even 
now amongst the Mahometans and Chinese. 
The Greeks and Romans did" not universally, 
nor at all times object to it. What wonder then 
that the custom of polygamy and divorce should 
be common to many savages of America, since 
it is upheld by the practice of the ancients? 
You should not however imagine that the whole 
nation of the Abipones follow after the steps of 
the other nations in that respect. The major 
part are contented with one and the same wife, 
though I cannot deny that divorce is as fre- 
quent amongst them as the changing of the 
dress in Europe ; yet I have known many who 
kept the same wife all their lives. But if any 
Abipon marries several women, he settles them 
in separate hordes, many leagues distant from 
one another, and visits first one, then the other, 
at intervals of a year. If he keeps many in the 
same house, which is very seldom the case, end- 
less quarrels, blows, and battles, are sure to 



ensue, about the prerogative of governing the 
family, and the favour of their husband. Neje- 
tenta, as I said before, is a v^^ord appropriated to 
express a contest between two wives about their 
husband ; any other sort of fight is called Roe- 

Let us now speak of the reason that occasions 
divorce. It is very common amongst them 
to reject wives to whom they have formerly 
united themselves, at their own pleasure, and 
with impunity, so that divines have very pro- 
perly doubted the reality of the marriage of 
savages, as it seems to want the perpetuity of 
the nuptial tie. If their wives displease them, 
it is sufficient; they are ordered to decamp. 
No farther cause or objection is sought for; the 
will of the husband, who dislikes his wife, stands ' 
in the place of reason . S ho uld the husband cast 
his eyes upon any handsomer woman, the old 
wife must remove merely on this account, her 
fading form or advanced age being her only ac- 
cusers, though she maybe universally commend- 
ed for conjugal fidelity, regularity of conduct, 
diligent obedience, and the children she has 
born. None of the men of most authority have 
either the right or the inclination to defend the 
divorced, or control the diviorcer. But, appoint- 
ing a drinking-party, wherein the memory of 




injuries is refreshed in the minds of the intoxi- 
cated guests, the relations fiercely avenge the 
dishonour done to the repudiated wife. Often, 
too, women just cast off by one man are imme- 
diately married by another. I have observed 
elsewhere that the younger women highly ap- 
prove the law of Christ, and are anxious that 
themselves and their husbands should be bap- 
tized, because the perpetuity of their marriage 
is thereby secured, and their husbands pre- 
vented from changing or increasing the number 
of their wives. This licence of divorce pro- 
duces, as I have already related, bloody mur- 
ders of children, and the incredible diminution 
of the whole nation. 

You will find many things worthy of repre- 
hension, but at the same time not a few deserving 
of praise, in the married state of the Abipones. I 
will inform you of those most worthy of mention. 
Though the paternal indulgence of the Roman 
pontiffs makes the first and second degrees of 
relationship alone a bar to the marriage of the 
Indians, yet the Abipones, instructed by nature 
and the example of their ancestors, abhor the 
very thought of marrying any one related to 
them by the most distant tie of relationship. 
Long experience has convinced me, that the re- 
spect to consanguinity, by which they are de- 
terred from marrying into their owti families, 



is implanted by nature in the minds of most 
of the people of Paraguay. In this opinion I 
was greatly confirmed by the Cacique Roy, 
leader of the savages in the woods of Mbaevera, 
who, when I was explaining the heads of reli- 
gion to the surrounding multitude, and hap- 
pened to make mention of incestuous nuptials, 
broke out into these words — " You say right. 
Father! Marriage with relations is a most 
shameful thing. This we have learnt from our 
ancestors." Such are the feelings of these wood 
savages, though they think it neither irrational 
nor improper to marry many wives, and reject 
them whenever they like- 

Another admirable trait in the character of 
the savage Abipones is their conjugal fidelity. 
You never hear of this being shaken, or even 
attempted. Husbands are many months absent 
from their homes, whilst their wives remain in 
the midst of a horde of men without danger or 
even suspicion. What the Greeks have fabled 
of Penelope, who continued faithful to her hus- 
band Ulysses during an absence of twenty years, 
is the true history of the Abiponian women. 
But if an Abipon entertains the slightest suspi- 
cion of his wife's virtue, he does not digest it in 
silence, but takes ample vengeance on the person 
suspected though not convicted of the injury. 
. Amongst the other good qualities of the mar- 

p 3 

^■^ ''-ki 



ried people amongst the Abipones, may be 
reckoned the tender affection which they display 
towards their offspring, in feeding, clothing, 
and taking care of them. To tutor the boys 
from their earliest age in the arts of ridmg, 
swimming, hunting, and fighting, is the chief 
care of the fathers. The girls are diligently m- 
structed by their mothers in the domestic duties 
of females, and early inured to labour and in- 
accommodation. But this is worthy of censure 
in them, that however disobedient or refractory 
their children may be, they never have the 
courage to correct them with a word, much 
less with a blow. Alaykin, chief Cacique of 
the town of Concepcion, whenever he visited 
me, held a little boy five years of age upon his 
lap. This child, who was as restless as a 
young ape, would sometimes pull his father's 
nose or his hair, and sometimes struck his face. 
The old man, pleased at this, would cry— 
" Look, Father ! can you ever doubt that this 
fearless boy will sometime come to be a famous 
soldier or captain, since he is not afraid of me, a 
leader so victorious and so formidable to the 
Spaniards ?" The same boy would throw bones, 
horns, or any thing else he could lay hold on, 
at his mother, when she came to call him 
home. The warlike father interpreted the 
child's insolence, which he ought to have pu- 



nished, ,as the mark of an intrepid mind, and 
rewarded it with laughter, and even with praise. 
The too mibounded love which they bear their 
children incapacitates the savages from doing 
any thing to cause them pain. But every one 
knows that the immoderate fondness of parents 
is a frequent injury to children in Europe. 







The love implanted in the minds of all nations 
towards their prince never shows itself more 
clearly than when the birth of an heir is an- 
nounced. Festive fires, theatrical games, joyous 
acclamations, songs, paintings, sculpture, ele- 
gant dances, and various other things attest the 
public joy. This custom of the Europeans, the 
savage and warlike Abipones in their fashion 
imitate. They make public show of rejoicing 
for some days, when informed of the birth of 
a Cacique's son. As soon as a report is spread 
of the birth of the son of a Cacique, the whole 
crowd of girls, bearing palm boughs in their 
hands, repair to the house of the infant amid fes- 
tive acclamations ; they run round the roof and 
sides of it, shaking the palm boughs, by which 
percussion they happily augur that the child 
will become famous in war, and the scourge of 
his enemies. The use of the palms, and the 
other ceremonies which follow all have rela- 
tion to this. The strongest of the women is 
covered from the loins to the legs, with a sort 



of apron made of the longer ostrich feathers. 
That woman has every day the most business to 
perform ; for in company with the other girls, 
she visits all the huts, and with a hide, twisted 
in the form of Hercules's club, whips, puts to 
flight, and pursues all the men that she finds in 
every house, and those that are met by the way 
are soundly beaten by the girls, with the palm 
boughs. The first day is passed in this running 
up and down, amidst the laughter of the flagel- 
lated men. Next day the girls, who are distri- 
buted into bands, wrestle with one another, 
and the boys do the same in a separate place. 
On the third day they are called out to dance, 
the boys on one side, and the girls on the other. 
They all join hands till a circle is formed, an 
old woman, the directress of the dance going 
round striking a gourd : and when after a whirl- 
ing for some time, they grow giddy, they rest 
at intervals, and then renew their dancing, 
which contains nothing worthy of admiration, 
but the patience displayed on the part both of 
the spectators and of the performers, and is 
perfectly devoid of art. On the fourth day, the 
woman with the apron of ostrich feathers tra- 
verses the town, surrounded by girls, challeng- 
ing the stoutest and strongest woman she finds 
in every house, to contend with her in the 
street ; and now throwing her adversary, now 



being herself thrown, affords an amusing spec- 
tacle to the assembled people. During the 
remaining days, (for those games last eight 
days,) either the former sports are renewed, 
or the men joyfully indulge in public drink- 
ing-parties, wherein songs are alternately sung 
to the sound of drum. Of the other games, 
on the occasion of some person's being admitted 
to the rank of captain, of the celebration of any 
signal victory, of the death of a noble, the re- 
moval of the bones of the dead, the shaving 
of a widow's hair, &c. we shall discourse 
elsewhere. Of this I am quite certain, that 
the Abipones Nakaiketergehes, or wood-Abi- 
pones, are much more observant of national 
rites and ceremonies than the rest. It is in- 
credible what time and labour it cost us to 
abolish the national rites of this ferocious na- 
tion, which the example of their ancestors had 
hallowed in their eyes. An oak a hundred 
years old, which has stuck its roots deep into 
the ground, is not felled at a blow. But now, 
from nuptial and natal games, let us proceed to 
things of a more gloomy character, to diseases, 
physicians, and medicines. 



I HAVE long since described the Abipones to 
be stout, vigorous, and robust ; and unless I am 
much deceived, have already proved in chapter 
the seventh, that the diseases, which in Europe 
fill houses with sick persons, and graves with 
dead bodies, are unknown here. Epilepsy, 
gout, lethargy, madness, jaundice, diseases in 
the joints, complaints in the kidneys, elephan- 
tiasis, iliac disorders, &c. are names strange and 
foreign to the Abipones. You scarce hear once 
in three years of any of them dying of a fever, 
pleurisy, or consumption. Sickness is more 
rare amongst them than an Aurora Borealis, or 
an eclipse with us. I never heard any of them 
complain of tooth-ache except an old woman, 
who soon stopped the pain with a few drops of 
vinegar. I do not wonder that the savages 
should be exempt from so common a complaint, 
as they are accustomed from childhood to chew 
tobacco leaves mixed with salt and the saliva 
of old women, and reduced into the form of an 
unguent. It is not improperly, therefore, that 

M ! 




they call tobacco noeta, their medicine : for they 
are constantly eating honey, both in a solid and 
liquid state, which is the certain destruction of the 
teeth ; so that the Indians must suffer continual 
torment from them, or soon be deprived of 
them altogether, were not the bad effects of the 
honey counteracted by the acrimony of the salt 
and tobacco. Experience shows that persons 
who smoke or chew tobacco every day will pre- 
serve their teeth sound. I have seen Spaniards 
of the higher orders in Paraguay either chew or 
smoke tobacco, and take delight in it as of 
certain utility to the health. But the Para- 
guayrians have another remedy against the 
tooth-ache. The pods of the cacao are steeped 
for some time in brandy. Cotton dipped in 
this liquor is applied to the tooth, which, if not 
hollow, is well moistened wdth that brandy, 
which should be held a long time in the mouth. 
If you repeat this several times, both the 
swelling and the pain will entirely cease. My 
own frequent experience, joined with that of 
others, has taught me the efficacy of this noble 
medicine, which is celebrated even in Europe. 
The freshest and most juicy pods must be 
chosen for the purpose, for what virtue will the 
old decayed ones yield, which are destitute of 
oil? The milder drinkable brandy should be 
used, not that fiery liquor which chemists call 



spirits of wine. Some prick the gum of the 
tooth with the spine of the fish ray a, and by 
eliciting blood, allay the pain. Others again 
reduce tigers' claws and alum first into a calx, 
and then into a powder, by laying them on hot 
coals, and after they are well mixed up toge- 
ther, apply them to the hollow of the tooth. 
By the adoption of this method, many, beside 
myself, have found not only the pain, but 
the cause of the pain so entirely removed, that 
it never returned afterwards. Tooth-ache is a 
frequent and dreadful afiliction to Europeans in 
Paraguay, on account of the scarcity or un- 
skilfulness of surgeons. In extracting the dis- 
eased tooth, they pierce and lacerate the whole 
gum near it, which causes extreme pain, toge- 
ther with much effusion of blood. That the 
Abipones never need the aid of these torturers, 
is a truly enviable part of their felicity. I never 
saw a toothless person amongst them. The 
teeth, which they have made strenuous use of 
all their lives, generally go with them to the 

Whenever they feel themselves unwell, al- 
though the complaint be in the foot or the 
elbow, they always say that their heart pains 
them. The same is the case with the Guara- 
nies. If you say to the sick man, what ails you, 
what is the matter with yoii? he immediately 



replies with a groan, it is in my heart: so that 
it is very difficult to understand from the Indians 
what their complaint is, and where it is situated, 
unless it be betrayed by other signs. Loathing 
of food for ever so short a time is, in their 
opinion, a certain indication of sickness. If 
an Abipon, from having overloaded his stomach, 
abstains from food for a little while, the women 
immediately augur the worst respecting him, 
and make no end of their lamentations, saying 
every now and then with a groan, Chik rkene, 
he does not eat. As soon as the sick person 
takes ever so little food, though the disorder 
be not yet subdued, they think him out of 
danger, so that La i^kene, he eats now ; and Ld- 
yamini, or La natatkige, now he is recovered, 
now he revives, are with them synonimous. 
Moreover, as the Abipones are but very seldom 
sick, so very few of them die when they are 
sick. I do not doubt but that in the frequent 
conflicts they have with enemies and tigers, 
numbers fall yearly by the nails of the one, and 
the claws of the other. In most of the remain- 
der, extreme old age is generally the fatal dis- 
ease. In a word, greatest part of the Abi- 
pones die when they are satiated with life, 
when, weary of the burden of years, they long 
for death as the rest and solace of their miser- 
able existence. This circumstance occasions 



the common error that they should never die at 
all were the Spaniards and the jugglers banish- 
ed from America ; for, to the arms of the for- 
mer, and to the arts of the latter, they attribute 
the deaths of all their countrymen. A wound 
inflicted with a spear often gapes so wide that 
it affords ample room for life to go out and 
death to come in ; yet if the man dies of the 
wound, they madly believe him killed, not by 
a weapon, but by the deadly arts of the jugglers. 
The relations leave no stone unturned, not only 
diligently to investigate, but severely to punish 
the authors of the death, and of the sorcery. 
They are persuaded that the juggler will be 
banished from amongst the living, and made to 
aton^ for their relation's death, if the heart and 
tongue be pulled out of the dead man's body 
immediately after his decease, roasted at the 
fire, and given to dogs to devour. Though so 
many hearts and tongues are devoured, and 
they never observe any of the jugglers die, yet 
they still religiously adhere to the custom of 
their ancestors, by cutting out the hearts and 
tongues of infants and adults of both sexes, as 
soon as they have expired. How firmly this 
mad notion, that men are killed by magical arts 
alone, is rooted in the minds of the Abipones, 
you may learn from the following facts, of 
which I myself was a spectator. In the 



colony of St. Ferdinand, a Yaaucaniga, famed 
amongst his countrymen both for high birth 
and military prowess, and on that very ac- 
count ready for any audacious action, w^s 
much afflicted at the untimely death of his 
little daughter. He knew that she had been 
weak and diseased from her birth, yet was 
fully bent upon finding out the magical au- 
thor of her death. A foreign Indian woman 
married to an Abipon appeared to him, from the 
representations of certain old women, who 
bore her a grudge, to be the perpetrator of the 
crime. Infuriated by the supposed injury, and 
the desire of vengeance, he fell upon the inno- 
cent unsuspecting woman at the approach of 
night, as she was spinning at the fire; he 
pierced her shoulder-blade with a spear with such 
force, that the point came out in the middle of 
her bosom, and stained the child she was suck- 
ling with its mother's blood. The woman was 
middle-aged, very fat, and full-breasted. She 
swam in her own blood, which spouted from 
every vein. The horrid nature of the wound 
threatening certain death, the heads of our holy 
religion, which she had formerly learnt, were 
briefly recalled to her memory; she received 
baptism, and was admonished to forgive her 
murderer. Having thus attended to the sal- 
vation of the poor woman's soul, we applied 
all our thoughts towards retarding her death. 



though we thought no medicine capable of sa- 
ving her life. The blood which flowed, mixed 
with milk, being wiped up, the wound was 
washed with hot wine, and anointed with hen's 
fat. Numbers of people assembled to witness 
this mournful spectacle. Mixed with the 
crowd came a juggler physician, who gave the 
husband of the wounded woman a horn, de- 
siring him to discharge his urine into it, and 
was immediately and plentifully obeyed. He 
gave the warm urine to the woman to drink, 
who made no hesitation, but swallowed it to 
the last drop. The juggling Hippocrates then 
turned to my companion and said : " Do you 
know why I prescribed fresh urine ? In order 
that the wounded woman may vomit up the 
blood trickling from the wound to the inmost 
parts of the body, which would otherwise 
putrefy, and cause the lungs and other parts to 
putrefy also." The event verified his predic- 
tion. The woman was cleared by vomiting. 
The deep wound, being daily anointed with 
hen's fat, and having the leaves of the cabbage, 
which we call siisse kraut, applied to it to pre- 
vent inflammation, healed in a few days, and, 
excepting the scar, no inconvenience, trouble, 
or pain resulted from it. The surgeons of our 
country will doubtless laugh at the application 
of hen's fat, and perhaps question its eflicacy in 




curing wounds ; let them laugh, deride, doubt 
and despise, with my hearty good- will. I con- 
fidently oppose the experience of my own eyes, 
to their doubts and laughter. My arm, which 
was pierced with an arrow armed with five barbs, 
by theNatakebit savages, the nerve which directs 
the middle finger being injured at the same 
time, was happily cured in fourteen days by 
this remedy alone. With this fat I have cured 
men wounded both with arrows and spears ; 
and with the same remedy I entirely healed an 
Abiponian woman whose leg had been wounded 
by an axe, in consequence of which, as all 
medicine had for some days been neglected, the 
foot was swelled in a dreadful manner. It 
would be endless to relate all the cures that 
have been worked with hen's fat. 

The jugglers are commonly thought to be 
the authors of diseases, as well as of death, and 
the sick Abipones imagine that they shall 
recover as soon as ever those persons are re- 
moved. A tragic event vvdll render this foolish 
persuasion more undoubted. An Abipon of 
the town of St. Jeronymo, called Ychohake, 
elevated by the memory of his own great deeds, 
and those of his brother, the Cacique Ychoa- 
lay, wasted away with a slow disease. It 
never entered his head to seek the cause in the 
noxious hum.ours in which he abounded. To 




discover which of the jugglers it was that had 
afflicted him with this sickness, was his daily 
and nightly endeavour. On this affair he con- 
sulted some old women, who pronounced a 
Toba, of the name of Napakainchin, to be the 
cause of the disease. The sick man imme- 
diately devotes the accused to death, for the 
preservation, as he thought, of his own life. 
In the dead of the night, he came upon him 
unawares, as he was sleeping in his tent ; he 
plunged the iron point of his spear into his 
body, pierced his left side with a powerful 
blow, broke two of his ribs, and clove his 
shoulder with a weapon. At the cries of the 
wounded man, people assembled, whilst the 
assassin escaped by flight. We were called to 
the assistance of the poor wretch. Seeing him 
bathed in blood, and pierced with three wounds, 
we imagined that he would expire immediately. 
The bystanders told us that unless we removed 
him into our house, the person who put him in 
this condition would return to dispatch him 
with fresh wounds. According to their advice, 
he was conveyed into our house. Slipping by 
the way out of the hands of the carriers, he fell 
to the ground with fresh, and imminent danger 
of his life ; for he was very large, and of weight 
proportionable to such great bulk. The place 
where he was laid in our house, as it had 




neither door nor fastening, was fortified by the 
Abipones with hides on every side, that Ycho- 
hake might not gain access, if he came to com- 
plete the murder. And, in fact, as the Indians 
foretold, in half an hour, he came furnished with 
a dagger to hasten the death of the dying man ; 
but being bravely repulsed by Father Joseph 
Brigniel, whose companion I then was, returned 
without accomplishing his purpose. The 
wounded man was baptized, and by means of 
our cares and medicines, amongst which hen's 
fat was the principal, happily recovered in the 
course of a few weeks. Napakainchin's wife 
and children gladly imitated his example, and 
embraced the Christian religion. A little after, 
the whole family, apprehending fresh danger 
from the same Ychohake, removed to the neigh- 
bouring town of St. Xavier. 

Do not imagine the history of the sick 
and crazy Ychohake finished. After strug- 
gling with the disease for some months, with 
increased suspicions of some witchcraft being 
practised upon him, he took it into his head to 
accuse a woman, supposed to be acquainted 
with the black art, of his ill state of health. 
About mid-day, he attacked the unsuspecting 
female, and as he endeavoured to strike off her 
head, the weapon glanced aside, and cut her 
left cheek, which, falling to her breast with the 



ear hanging to it by a piece of skin, bathed the 
child at her breast with blood. The smiter was 
kept off by the people who crowded to the 
assistance of the woman. I could scarce re- 
frain from tears at the cruel spectacle ; but not 
having it in my power to punish the wretch who 
had committed the outrage, turned -all my at- 
tention towards succouring the soul of the out- 
raged. We had a negro somewhat skilled in 
the art of surgery ; him I ordered to sew the 
cheek in three places to the head, the woman 
enduring the pricks of the needle without a 
groan, whilst the rest were filled with horror at 
the sight. The whole wound was washed w^b 
warm urine, anointed with hen's fat, and gently 
bound with a piece of linen dipped in a decoc- 
tion of herbs. As no bandages to fasten the 
linen could be found, I used the girdle which I 
wore. The whole evening during which this 
passed, and the next night, the faithful Abi- 
pones watched diligently for the security of the 
woman that she might not sustain any further 
injury. For that Indian eagerly longed for her 
death, as the means of procuring the recovery 
of his own health. But the wound healing 
sooner than we had expected, the danger that 
the poor creature could not always remain con- 
cealed was removed, by her privately retreat- 

Q 3 



ing to the town of St. Ferdinand. Divine Pro- 
vidence seems to have dictated her flight; for 
the Cacique Ychoalay, who was absent from 
the town at the time of the event, when in- 
formed by me of Ychohake's cruelty, and re- 
quested to restrain his brother, replied that he 
should come immediately, not to restrain his 
brother, but to kill that woman, whom he had 
long thought infamous for her magic arts, and to 
be feared by all. And indeed, being very firm 
in his resolves, he would have put his threats 
into execution without a doubt, had he found 
the woman in the town. For, in former years, 
when they wandered up and down the plains, 
he turned out of his horde all women suspected 
of sorcery, and pierced many of them, though 
perhaps perfectly innocent, with a spear, that 
they might never deceive any one again ; being 
often condemned both on the score of credulity 
and crueltv. 

But this bloody tragedy, at length, had a 
happy termination. The Indian Ychohake 
ceased at length to live and to be feared, and 
you will be surprised to hear that one, who, in 
his lifetime, had been so mad in his suspicions 
of sorcery, grew sane in his last moments. 
Having received baptism, at his own desire, 
conscious of approaching dissolution he de- 



lighted much in the presence of the priest, 
whom, as he came in the early part of the night, 
he persuaded to repose for a while at his own 
house, promising to let him know when he felt 
his death approach. He kept his word : he 
calmly expired the night before Trinity Sunday, 
whilst the priest was suggesting every thing 
consolatory to the dying man, and his relations 
were all weeping around him. He caused us 
to entertain great hopes of his obtaining a 
happy immortality on many accounts. For, 
indignant at the lamentations of his weeping 
domestics, he said they should remember he 
was going to visit the great house of the 
Creator of all things, the high father, the great- 
est captain. Ever intent on appeasing the 
Almighty, he testified sorrow and remorse for 
the many murders he had committed, of Chris- 
tians and others. He repeatedly desired his 
wife not to follow the custom of their ancestors 
in slaying his horses and sheep at his grave ; 
leaving them, and all his other property, to 
his httle daughter. All this manifests that he 
held his ancient superstitions in abhorrence, 
and had embraced Christianity with his whole 
soul. I have related this to show you that all 
the misery resulting from deaths and disorders 
is attributed by the Abipones to the magical 




arts of the jugglers ; whom, nevertheless, at 
other times they revere as physicians and 
saviours, of vs^hich more hereafter. Much re- 
mains to be said of diseases which ought not to 
be unknown to Europe. 


During an eighteen years' acquaintance with ' 
Paraguay and its inhabitants, I discovered a 
disease amongst the Abipones Nakaiketergehes, 
entirely unknown elsewhere. This disease 
affects the mind more than the body, though I 
should think it occasioned by the bad tempera- 
ture of the former. They sometimes begin to 
rave and storm like madmen. The credulous 
and superstitious crowd think them reduced 
to this state by the magic arts of jugglers, and 
call them Loaparaika. These persons, agitated, 
as I think, by the intemperature of black bile, and 
filled with gloomy ideas, betray their madness 
chiefly at sun-set. The distracted persons sud- 
denly leap out of their tents, run into the 
country on foot, and direct their course straight 
to the burying-place of their family. In speed 
they equal ostriches, and those who pursue 
them on the swiftest horses can hardly overtake 
and bring them home. Seized with fury in the 
night, they burn with the desire of committing 
slaughter somewhere; and for this purpose 




snatch up any arms they can lay hold of. Hence, 
as soon as a report is spread through a town of 
any one's bemg seized with this kind of mad- 
" ness, every body takes up a spear. The hordes- 
men, as they can neither calm the furious man, 
nor keep him at home, suffer him to go out into 
the street, armed with a stick, and accompanied 
with as many people as possible. A crowd of 
boys assembling to behold the spectacle, they 
make a circuit about all the streets. The in- 
sane person strikes the roof and mats of every 
tent again and again with the stick, none of the 
inmates daring to utter a word. If through the 
negligence of his guards, or his own cunning, 
he gets possession of arms, Heavens ! what a 
universal terror is excited ! a terror not con- 
fined to women and unwarlike boys, but felt by 
men who account themselves heroes ; for they 
say it is wrong and irrational to use arms 
against those who are not in possession of their 
senses. The women, therefore, with their chil- 
dren used to crWd to the court-yard of our 
house which was fortified with stakes against 
the assaults of savages, and through fear of the 
insane person, pass hours, nay whole nights 

Persons seized with this madness take 
scarcely any food or sleep, and walk up and 
down pale with fasting and melancholy : you 



would imagine that they were contemplating 
some new system of the figure of the earth, or 
studying how to square the circle. By day, 
however, they betray no signs of alienation of 
mind, nor are they to be feared before evening. 
A person of this description, who was very tur- 
bulent at night, visited me in the middle of the 
day. In familiar conversation I asked him who 
it was that disturbed the rest by his furious- 
ness every night. He replied with a calm coun- 
tenance, that he did not know. The Spaniard, 
my companion, seeing him take his leave, said, 
" This is the man you have long wished to 
know. This is he that raves at night." Yet I 
could discover nothing indicative of derange- 
ment either in his countenance or manners. 
Another insane person of the kind, whom I 
knew, met me as we were both riding in the 
plain, and joined company with me. But, 
pretending business, I put spur to my horse and 
hastened home. Twice when I was shutting 
the door of my hut, and once v^hen I was tying 
a horse to a stake to feed, I should have been 
destroyed by a madman, had not persons come 
to my succour and averted the danger. Some- 
times many persons of both sexes began to rave 
at once ; sometimes one, and often no one was 
in this deplorable state. This madness lasted 
eight, fourteen, or more days, before tranquil- 



lity and intellect were restored. All the Abi- 
pones subject to this malady, whom I have 
known, were uniformly of a melancholy turn of 
mind, always in a state of perturbation from 
their hypochondriac or choleric temper, and of 
a fierce, threatening countenance. When this 
bile was excited by bad air, or immoderate 
drinking, it is neither strange nor surprising, that 
derangement and raving madness ensued. The 
stupid or ignorant alone attribute that to magic 
art, which is solely to be ascribed to the fault 
or strength of nature. 

We have found the fear of death a powerful 
antidote to the licence of raving amongst the 
Abipones. Within a few days the number 
of mad persons increased unusually : one of 
them in the dead of the night got through the 
fence, and was stealing into our house, but was 
carried away by people who came to our as- 
sistance. Alaykin, the chief Cacique, being 
informed of our danger, called all the people 
into the market-place next day, and declared, 
that if any one henceforward took to raving, 
he should immediately put to death all the 
female jugglers, as well as the insane them- 
selves. From that time I never heard of any 
more tumults occasioned by these furious per- 
sons. Might not some of them have feigned 
madness in the first instance, because they 

loved to be objects of terror to their hordes- 
men, and to be pointed at with the finger ? 
I never can believe with the savages, that a 
madcal charm was the cause of their insanity. 





The physician Roderigo Fonseca observes, 
'' The plague was never seen either in the East 
or West Indies, but we know that in America 
a million Indians were destroyed by the small- 
pox not many years back, when no Spaniard 
took the infection. This disease was intro- 
duced amongst them by a Negro." I say nothing 
of the East Indies, being an utter stranger to 
them, but every one agrees that no plague ever 
raged in America : if you have read the con- 
trary in any historian, remember that catarrh, 
ague, and diarrhea, if long and widely preva- 
lent, are called the plague by the lower orders 
of Spaniards. The small-pox and measles too are 
not improperly denominated the plague by the 
Indians. We have also frequently experienced 
a murrain in cattle fatal to horses, oxen, and 
above all to mules ; a disease induced not by 
the pestilence of the air, but by the badness of 
the pastures, or the scarcity of water. This 
sort of disorder may be truly called contagious, 
the mere contact with sick or dead bodies beino- 
infectious. Swelling of the head, and blood 



trickling from the nostrils were symptoms of 
the reigning disorder ; the same signs too indi- 
cated the bites of serpents in animals. Mutilating 
the ear, and cutting the vein of the fore foot, 
were admirable remedies against the poison of 
that disease in mules, especially if salt were 
given them to lick. The paunches of the oxen 
slain to feed the Indians are daily thrown out, 
along with the bowels, into an open place, 
where all the horses and mules eagerly crowd 
to lick the garbage, because a sort of salt and 
nitre is created by the blood of which they are 
excessively fond. Therefore, whilst this dread- 
ful murrain raged in our territories we daily 
sprinkled those entrails with salt, the salubrity 
of which is proved by the circumstance, that 
whilst numbers died in the neighbouring estates, 
very few sickened, and many recovered with 
us in the town of St. Joachim. 

It is beyond all controversy, that small-pox is 
the true plague of the Americans, and that it 
has been lately introduced into America, either 
by Europeans or Negroes. Hence the just com- 
plaint of the Indians. *' The Europeans are 
fine people, truly ! They have made liberal com- 
pensation for the infinity of gold and silver they 
have taken from us, by leaving us the plague of 
the small-pox." Indeed it is a well known fact 
that the number of Indians who have died of this 



disease during the two last centuries, defy all 
calculation. In the thirty Guarany towns some 
thirty thousand persons died of the small-pox 
in the year 1734. 

It is not true that the Spaniards and other 
Europeans in America are exempted from small- 
pox ; but it cannot be doubted that the Indians 
take it sooner, and more frequently die of it. 
I am of opinion that their habit of body has 
less strength to repel or overcome that poison. 
They generally eat half-raw and unsalted meat ; 
they always go with their heads and feet bare ; 
they drink nothing but water, and that not of 
the best kind, except at a few festive drinking 
parties in the course of the year; all which 
tend to weaken the stomach. The heat of the 
sun, and the constant use of maize, cause a 
ferment in their blood which, on the accession 
of small-pox, very frequently proves fatal. 
This must be understood of the pedestrian In- 
dians only, for the Abipones, and other eques- 
trian Indians, who do not labour under those 
miseries to which the f pedestrians are subject, 
generally have the small-pox in a milder form. 

In the year 1765 this plague carried off great 
numbers in the Spanish colonies. Having swept 
away about twelve thousand persons in the thirty 
Guarany towns, it spread to the distant hordes 
of the savages scattered throughout Chaco, and 



though almost all took the infection, yet few 
died in proportion to the number of the sick. 
I speak of the equestrians, who were saved by 
the strength of their constitutions. In the 
town which I founded for the Abipones, one 
woman only escaped the contagion, yet out of 
the many hundreds that took the disease, 
twenty alone fell victims to it. 

Often no mention is made of the small-pox 
for many years amongst the Indians ; but this 
calm is the sure forerunner of an approaching 
storm. We have always found the small pox 
break out first in the colonies of the Spaniards, 
and spread from thence to the farthest hordes 
of the Indians ; who, having learnt from the ex- 
perience of their ancestors, to dread this disease 
as their death, separate from their hordesmen 
as soon as ever they have the least suspicion of 
its approach, and fly, some one way, some 
another, in precipitate haste. Upon this occa- 
sion they travel not in a straight line, but by 
various meanders and windings. That this 
method is superstitiously observed by the 
Lules, Isistines, Vilelas, Homoampas, and Chu- 
nipies, I was told by Fathers who had re- 
sided long amongst them. Through fear of the 
contagion, fathers desert their sick sons, and 
sons their fathers. They leave a pitcher of 
water, and some roasted maize at the sick 

VOL. ir. 




man's bed, and consult their own safety by 
flight. I should wrong the Abipones were I to 
say that they imitate them in these particulars. 
They do indeed turn their backs on the spot 
where the pestilence prevails, and crowd to 
their lurking-places in the woods ; but on these 
occasions, they travel straight onwards, as 
usual, nor ever neglect their sick friends and 
relations, studiously performing the duties of 
humanity. Their endurance of pain and incon- 
venience at such times is likewise deserving 
of commendation. Even whilst the disorder 
rages with malignant heats I never heard them 
womanishly crying or complaining. They ac- 
count the least groan a dishonour, and, to main- 
tain the character for fortitude, endeavour to 
endure the bitterness of disease in silence. 

I generally found this disorder most fatal to 
persons of a melancholy, choleric habit, or of 
advanced age, and to women in a state of preg- 
nancy. To those upon whom, after a feverish 
heat, the small-pox slowly broke out, in whom 
it was blackish, thick, depressed, and spotted 
in the middle, or mixed wdth red and conflu- 
ent, I presaged great danger and speedy death ; 
— a prediction generally verified by the event. 
When the small-pox and swelling quickly disap- 
pear, all hope of the patient's recovery disap- 
pears likewise. I generally observed that per- 



sons of a cheerful disposition, fair complexion, 
and less advanced period of life, underwent little 
trouble and danger from this disease. The 
burning of the throat, occasioned by the small- 
pox breaking out there, together with the 
cough and sort of quinsy it produces, are 
highly dangerous, and frequently fatal to the 
Indians. Water, mixed with sugar and citron- 
juice, is very refreshing to persons afflicted 
in this manner ; a decoction of plantane leaves 
is also of use to rinse the throat, and some- 
times for the purpose of washing the eyes. 
The old physicians advised persons in the 
small-pox to stay within doors, and keep them- 
selves well covered, lest the spots which are 
ready to come out should be repressed to the 
inward parts. The Abipones, on the contrary, 
after taking the small-pox, passed days and 
nights in the open air, or in huts half closed, 
and admitting the air on every side. Whilst 
flying to the recesses of the woods they re- 
ceived the cold air into their whole bodies : 
might not this be the reason why, out of so 
great a number of sick persons, so very few 
died of the small-pox ? For I have since learnt 
that modern physicians think the open air 
wholesomer for persons in the small-pox than 
the heat of a room ; therefore I now no longer 
wonder at this disease proving fatal to so many 




thousands of Guaranies, who, after being seized 
with it, always lie near the fire in a close room, 
almost smothered with blankets, and would 
have thought it fatally dangerous to breathe 
the fresh air even for a moment. The habits 
of the Abipones, in time of small-pox, were 
totally opposite, and it seldomer proved fatal 
to them. To corroborate this assertion I will 
relate an event worthy the consideration and 
wonder of physicians. 

One of my Abipones, who was burning with 
feverish heat, the forerunner of small-pox, se- 
cretly procured a horn full of brandy which he 
drank to the last drop. Mounting his horse, in 
a state of complete intoxication, he swam 
across a river in the night, and arrived in safety 
at a plain, three miles and a half distant, where 
his fellow-hordesmen were dwelling, for fear of 
the contagion. When informed of these things, 
I was in great a:pprehension of the immediate 
death of the imprudent savage, and flew to 
succour both his soul and body. Unexpectedly 
good news were announced : that same night 
the small-pox broke out upon him, neither thick 
nor malignant. In a very few days he reco- 
vered, and was at liberty to ride where he 
liked. He was about thirty years old, of a 
lively temper, strong constitution, and high 
fame am.ongst his countrymen, for the number 



of Spaniards he had slain. Here it may be 
observed that the Americans, who have had the 
genuine small -pox, do not fear the return of it. 
At five years of age I had the small-pox so 
slightly, that I was marked in ten places only, 
and was ill but two days. Yet that this short 
sickness is, by the law of nature, sufficient, I 
was fully persuaded, after living many months, 
day and night, with Indians who had the disor- 
der, without taking the infection. 

Almost the same observations may be made 
on measles as on small-pox. It rages at inter- 
vals, spreads, and cuts off vast numbers in 
America. Whilst I resided in the town of St. 
Joachim, out of two thousand Indians so many 
were laid up with this disorder, that often none 
were left to supply the sick with food, water, 
wood and medicines. The offices due to the 
minds and bodies of the sick kept Father Joseph 
Fleischauer and myself occupied day and night 
for some months. That pestilence carried off 
two hundred persons, out of which number 
there were very few infants, and no old men, 
most of them being persons in the flower of 
their age. The tertian ague sometimes spreads 
like a contagion amongst the Indians, but is 
more troublesome than dangerous, and prevails 
only in those places where stinking ditch water 
is in constant use. For the same reason ter- 

R 3 



tian ague is very prevalent in many Spanish 
towns, especially in Tucuman. In the colony 
of Concepcion, on the banks of the river Ines- 
pin, which supplied the inhabitants with sweet 
and very wholesome water, no person was ever 
seized with the tertian ague. In the colonies 
of St. Ferdinand and the Rosary, which were 
surrounded with marshes and lakes, the Abi- 
pones were destitute of river water, and conse- 
quently hardly ever free from agues. In the 
colony of the Rosary the fever prevailed so 
much for the space of some months, that no 
one escaped it, not even myself, though at 
other times secure amidst persons infected with 
this disorder. That none of the savages might 
die suddenly without receiving baptism, I 
daily visited all the sick, and at length caught 
the quotidian ague, though the Indians only 
laboured under the tertian. The fever daily 
increased at sun-set, and did not leave me till 
morning. This feverish agitation, at the end 
of seven and twenty days, was succeeded by 
the tertian, after two fits of which I happily 
recovered. What I suffered, in my utter want 
of all necessaries, and what danger I underwent, 
need not be told here. 

Just as I am about to conclude my discourse 
on contagious disorders, a circumstance occurs 
to my mind worthy the critical examination of 



physicians. Whilst I was at the Corcloban 
estate of St. Catharine belonging to the Jesuits, 
at the approach of night, we beheld a fiery- 
meteor, which bore the appearance of a very 
wide beam, and rolled sparkling through the 
midst of heaven to the opposite horizon. The 
Spanish strangers afterwards declared that it 
was visible to the whole province, and judged 
it portentous. We, who had learnt a sounder 
philosophy, gazed at that sudden splendour as 
calmly as at a firework, though it did in reality 
prove calamitous, being either the cause or the 
sign, or, at any rate, the concomitant of a deadly 
catarrh which prevailed over the whole of Tu- 
cuman, and in two years carried off a great 
number of Spaniards and Negroes. Almost at 
the same time when the fiery exhalation was 
seen, this epidemic disease, as they say, began. 
Though this dangerous pestilence visited all 
the cities without distinction, yet I think it 
raged with particular violence in the estates. 
Travelling from Cordoba to Sta. F^, I met 
crowds of Spaniards carrying horns filled with 
the urine of sick persons for the inspection of 
the Cordoba empirics ; for there are no real 
physicians in the whole provinces. You would 
hardly believe what faith the lower orders of 
Spaniards place in the inspection of urine, and 
how much they are deceived in this matter. 

R 4 





ESTRAiN your laughter, friendly reader, when 
you hear that the Abipones honour their phy- 
sicians with the title of Keebet, which same word 
has the several significations of the devil, a phy- 
sician, a prophet, and a malevolent sorcerer. 
From which it appears how widely the office of 
physician extends with them, and what various 
kinds of knowledge it embraces. They revere 
physicians as the representatives of their grand- 
father, the evil spirit, and, believing them gifted 
by him with the art of healing diseases, dignify 
them with his honourable title of KeebH. But 
I openly pronounce these Abiponian physicians 
worthy of contempt and ridicule, for they never 
learnt even the rudiments of medical science, 
never entered a school of the kind, nor ever 
acquired the least smattering of pharmacy, 
botany, anatomy, or nosology. These knaves 
deserve to be flogged every day of their lives 
by the angry Galen, and spituponby ^sculapius, 
Hippocrates, and the whole tribe of physicians. 
For they thrust frauds instead of medicines, 
words instead of deeds upon the credulous Abi- 



pones, and are as well able to create as cure 
diseases, as ignorant in preparing a medicine 
as in composing a charm, and better skilled m 
weaving deceits than in relieving pains. 

It is remarkable in the Abiponian physicians 
that they cure every kind of disease with one 
and the same medicine. Let us examine their 
method of healing. They apply their lips to the 
part affected, and suck it, spitting after every 
suction. At intervals they draw up their breath 
from the very bottom of their breast, and blow 
upon that part of the body which is in pain. 
That blowing and sucking are alternately re- 
peated. If the whole body languishes, if it 
burns with malignant heat, if it is seized with 
measles or small-pox, four or five of these har- 
pies fly to suck and blow it, one fastening his 
lips on the arm, another on the side, a third 
and fourth on the feet. If a child cries, or re- 
fuses the breast, the mother gives him to a 
juggler to be sucked. This method of healing 
is in use amongst all the savages of Paraguay 
and Brazil, that I am acquainted with, and, ac- 
cording to Father Jean Grillet, amongst the 
Galibe Indians. I have known matter sucked 
from an ulcer and blood from a wound with 
utility, the materials of the corruption that 
would have ensued being by this means ex- 
hausted. Spaniards or Indians, when stung by 



a serpent, get some friend to suck the part af- 
fected, that the poison may be extracted before 
it spreads over the limbs. I do not therefore 
blame the Abipones for having their wounds, 
ulcers, and serpent-bites sucked: their super- 
stition lies in suiFering that office to be performed 
by none but the jugglers, and in believing the 
faculty of healing imparted to them by their 
grandfather. Though they at the same time 
believe that one excels another in the salubrity 
of his lips and breath, and in his healing powers. 
Another point in which this sucking is to be 
condemned is, that they use it as an universal 
remedy against every disease. I knew an Eu- 
ropean in Paraguay eminently versed in the 
medical art, who, from having made successful 
use of the herb fumitory, obtained the name of 
Doctor Fumitory. In the town of St. Thomas 
there was an Indian healer of the sick, who, 
when asked what medicine he gave to such or 
such a patient of his, uniformly replied, '' I gave 
him vervain. Father." Having found this herb 
do good to one individual, he indiscriminately 
prescribed it to all sick persons under whatever 
disease they laboured. The Abipones, still 
more irrational, expect sucking and blowing to 
rid the body of whatever causes pain or incon- 
venience. This belief is constantly fostered by 
the jugglers with fresh artifices. For when 



they prepare to suck the sick man, they secretly 
put thorns, beetles, worms, &c. into their 
mouths, and spitting them out, after having 
sucked for some time, say to him, pointing to 
the worm or thorn, " See here the cause of your 
disorder." At this sight the sick man revives, 
when he thinks the enemy that has tormented 
him is at length expelled : for as imagination 
is often the origin of sickness, it may also 
be that of health. Moreover, it is not sur- 
prizing that after many days sucking the pain 
should be relieved, which would have ceased of 
its own accord, by the benefit of time alone. I 
do not deny that the Abipones generally recover ; 
but for that they are indebted to their natural 
strength, not to the juggler who sucked them. 
To him, however, they religiously ascribe the 
praise and the glory of their recovered health ; 
to him they give horses, arms, garments, or any 
thing belonging to the convalescent person. 
Neither is it from gratitude that they do this, 
but from fear ; being firmly persuaded that the 
disease will return again unless they reward the 
physician to the utmost of their ability. Alas I 
how many infants have we seen fainting, pale, 
languid, dying, and soon dead from having their 
little bodies exhausted by constant sucking! 
The savage mothers must be certainly mad, 
since they still persist in this insane practice. 



after seeing so many children die in consequence 
of it. 

Amongst the Payaguas there exists a law 
that if any of them dies of a disease, the phy- 
sician who undertook his cure shall be put to 
death by the arrows of the assembled people ; 
and being desperately addicted to revenge, they 
are steadfast in the execution of this cruel law. 
During my residence in the city of Asumpcion, 
an unhappy physician atoned for the death 
of his patient by his own. Were this law in 
force amongst the Abipones, fewer of them 
would profess themselves followers of Galen ; 
they would shun the dangerous profession of 
medicine, and physicians would cease to grow 
like funguses in a night. Of this I am quite 
sure, that in every Abiponian horde there are 
more physicians than sick persons : deterred by 
no danger of loss of fame or life, and certain of 
reward, they besiege the beds of the sick, and 
suck away their strength in every disease. 
When questioned on the patient's danger, they 
make the happiest forebodings. If the event 
turn out contrary to their prognostics, they 
have always a ready excuse : the disease was a 
fatal one, or their skill was baffled by the ma- 
gical arts of some other juggler; the matter 
rests here, for it would be a crime to doubt the 
excuse of a juggler. 



Though sucking is the chief and almost only 
cure in use amongst the Abipones, yet they 
have some dream-like ideas of our remedies. 
At times, when oppressed by the heat of the 
sun, or inflamed with a feverish burning, they 
will draw blood by piercing their arm or leg 
with a knife. Medicinal herbs, of which their 
country produces so great a variety, they scarce 
know by name, yet are desirous of being 
thought well skilled in the mysteries of nature. 
Hence, not so much in the desire of restoring 
the sick person, as of increasing their own re- 
putation, they would sometimes prescribe the 
leaves of a tree, or the roots of some little known 
plant, on which the druggist might safely write 
quid pro quo, these remedies being generally of 
such a nature, that they are more likely to miss 
than be of any service. At the end of a fatiguing 
journey, I fell ill in the town of Concepcion. 
A woman, of high repute for skill in the healing 
art, comes and gives me a large dark root, 
promising me the complete restoration of my 
health, if I would drink it well boiled in water. 
I shuddered at the medicine, but still more at 
the old hag that prescribed it. 

The Guarany tongue is as rich as the Abi- 
ponian is poor in the names of wholesome 
plants, and not a few of the Guaranies are well 
acquainted with the use of them. In the town 




of St. Joachim I knew an Indian named Igna- 
eio Yarica, eight years an attendant upon the 
sick, whose dexterity and success I could not 
but admire. He would set a broken limb, and 
entirely heal it in a very short time by means 
of swathes of reeds and four little herbs. The 
woods of Am^erica also produce a kind of dark 
green ivy, which twines itself round the 
branches of trees, and is called by the Spaniards 
suelda C07i suelda. This plant cut small, boiled 
in water, and bound with linen on to the limb, 
soon and happily consolidates it. In the city 
of Corrientes, a Spanish matron was cured of a 
sprained foot, by merely wrapping it in the 
fresh skin of a puppy. The Abipones are to- 
tally ignorant of medicines for purging the 
bowels, causing perspiration, removing bile, 
and dispelling noxious humours. They will 
not even bear the mention of an enema. In the 
town of St. Jeronymo, a Spanish soldier who 
professed the art of medicine, being requested 
by Father Brigniel to attend upon a sick Abi- 
pon, declared the necessity of an injection. No 
sooner did the sick man feel the syringe applied 
to him, than he started furiously out of bed, 
snatched up a lance, and would have slain the 
soldier physician, had he not saved himself by 
hasty flight. Sudden terror giving way to rage, 
the old Spaniard, whilst we were laughing, 



poured forth a volley of curses on his ungrate- 
ful patient. " You had better call up a devil 
from hell. Fathers," said he, " to cure this 
beast. When I offered him medicine, the savage 
tried to kill me : he opposes a lance to a 
syringe. Who could contend with such un- 
equal arms ?" The Guaranies have the same 
repugnance to the use of the syringe. The In- 
dians use snuff as a medicine, stuffing it into 
their ears, when they find them badly affected 
by the rain or wind. The jugglers vauntingly 
affirm, that they have it in their power to per- 
form cures by words alone. Sitting on the 
sick man's bed they sing extemporary verses, 
as magical charms, either to reconcile the evil 
spirit, or to call up the shades of the dead by 
v^hose assistance they hope to remove all dis- 
eases. But away with this superstitious non- 
sense. The Abiponian physicians show^ how 
little they confide in their own arts, when, on 
being seized with a disorder, they neglect to 
consult their colleagues, and prefer the aid of 
any European who will prescribe for them. At 
the time that I dwelt amongst the Abipones, the 
most famous in the art of medicine was Parie- 
kaikin, the chief of the jugglers, who, on being 
seized with pleurisy, called on me to heal him 
in preference to any pf his colleagues. Cal- 
cined hartshorn, boiled in barley-water, re- 



stored him to health, and gained me the repu- 
tation of a physician amongst the Abipones. 
Nothing will procure you the good-will of the 
savages so soon as skill in the healing art. They 
think that he who understands the natures and 
remedies of diseases can be ignorant of nothing. 
They will believe him in matters of religion, 
and be tractable and obedient to him. Our 
Saviour himself inspired mortals with wonder, 
by healing bodies as well as souls. In imitation 
of him, when we were employed in the instruc- 
tion of the savages, we endeavoured to supply 
the want of physicians, surgeons, and druggists, 
by easily obtained remedies, by reading medi- 
cal books, and by other means, in order to wean 
that miserable people from their jugglers, whom 
we accounted the chief obstacles to the propa- 
gation of the holy religion. 

It is incredible how well the sick are taken 
care of in the Guarany towns. Indians are ap- 
pointed to attend upon them, more or fewer, 
according to the number of inhabitants. These 
men have some knowledge of herbs and com- 
mon remedies, though they are not allowed to 
use any medicine without consulting the mis- 
sionary. They carry in their hands a staff 
marked with a cross, and are hence called cross- 
bearers. It is their business to go about dawn 
to visit the sick in the district appointed to 



each, and to enquire whether any one has fallen 
ill lately. In the evening they make their re- 
port to the missionary in the presence of all, 
before he performs divine service, and are in- 
formed by him v^^hat remedies are to be used 
and what sacraments administered to each. At 
mid-day boiled meat with the best wheat bread 
is sent from his kitchen to the houses of all the 
sick, which are sometimes thirty, more or less, 
in number. All the sick are visited once every 
day, and sometimes oftener, by the missionary, 
accompanied by two boys. In short we never 
suffered any thing of use to the minds or bodies 
of the sick to be wanting. Moreover there re- 
sided amongst the Guaranies two or three lay- 
brothers of our order, European surgeons, to- 
lerably skilled in the art of medicine ; but on 
account of the great distance of the towns from 
one another, they were not always at hand to 
offer their assistance when it was needed. 

Upon us, therefore, whose proper business 
it was to attend upon the minds of the sick, de- 
volved the care of healing their bodies. We 
always ascribed it to the mercy of God when 
trifling remedies banished great diseases, for we 
had but a very scanty store of drugs. How useful 
to the sick in various ways were sulphur, alum, 
salt, tobacco, sugar, pepper, the fat of hens, ti- 
gers, oxen, sheep, &c. and gun-powder ! scarce 

VOL. II. s 



a day passed that the sick did not ask for one 
of these things. Three gourds were always in 
readiness filled with as many ointments: one 
green, made of suet, and thirty different herbs ; 
the second black; the third yellow. Each of 
these was destined to a separate purpose. We 
also had at hand plenty of sanative herbs, and 
the barks of trees famed for medicinal virtues. 
Numerous animals, moreover, supply the Ame- 
ricans with medicine. I will mention a few. 
A cataplasm of crocodiles' fat heals bruises. The 
stomach of the same when dried, ground to pow- 
der, and drank with water, is said to relieve the 
pain of the stone. The Spaniards and Indians 
wear a crocodile's tooth suspended from their 
neck or arm, and believe that it will defend 
them from the bites of serpents. Persons bit- 
ten by serpents scrape some dust from a cro- 
codile's tooth, and drink it mixed with water. 
The little stones found in the stomach of the 
crocodile when ground to powder, and drank, 
alleviate the pains of stone in the kidneys. 
Calcined tigers' claws, mixed with alum cal- 
cined also and reduced to powder, are a potent 
remedy for the tooth-ache. Tiger's fat instantly 
expels worms from the head or any other part 
of the body, if laid on the place where they at- 
tempt egress. Common house-flies often creep 
through the mouth or nose into the heads of 



sleeping persons, and there breed worms thick 
in the middle, terminating in a red point at each 
end, but white every where else, about as long 
as the nail of the little finger, and surrounded 
with circles like rings. Within a few hours x 
they multiply to an incredible degree, and gnaw 
that part of the head where they lie. The in- 
convenience occasioned by their numbers, or 
want of food, obliges them to attempt an exit 
wherever it can be eifected. A reddish spot on 
the surface of the skin is a mark of the intended 
eruption. The circumference of this spot 
must be anointed with tiger's fat, the detestable 
stench of which induces the worms to redouble 
their efforts, pierce through the bones and flesh, 
and break entirely out. I was astonished to 
see more worms than could be contained in my 
cap, proceed from the head of an Indian in the 
town of St. Joachim. Nor can I understand 
how one man's head is capable of receiving or 
supporting such a number of maggots. But 
from this we may conclude the incredible com- 
pression of the worms in so small a space. 
They make a passage between the eyebrows, 
but so narrow, that only one at a time can go 
out, and they succeed one another without in- 
terruption; the slender wound soon heals, a 
little gap in the flesh remaining like a scar. 
Th€ Indian doubted not to attribute his re- 




cov^ry to tiger's fat, which I prescribed for other 
persons with equal success. You shall now hear 
a still more singular fact. That rattle which a 
certain poisonous serpent has annexed to its taily 
is a noble medicine : for when reduced to powder, 
and placed on hollow teeth, it softens them so 
that they fall out of themselves without any 
sense of pain. It is also useful in other com- 

In order to obtain a knowledge of the nature 
of diseases, and of medicinal herbs, we dili- 
gently studied the books of physicians and her- 
balists; by which means, as we often were of 
service to the sick, we wrought so far with the 
Abipones, that whenever they were seized with 
any disorder they placed all their hopes on our 
assistance, to the neglect of their jugglers. When 
I distrusted myself and felt anxious for the life 
of my patient, I never rashly prescribed any 
medicine. To defend him from the injuries of 
the air, and to prevent him from eating or drink- 
ing any thing improper in his situation, was 
my chief care. I afforded him as much whole- 
some food as I could, from my own provisions. 
If these regulations were of no avail, I gave him 
a medicine that had been tried by long use, and 
which, if it did no good, could at any rate do no 
harm. The savages, won by our courtesy and 
kindness, suffered themselves to be baptized ; 



for at first, whenever they fell sick, the dread of 
baptism induced them to fly to the lurking- 
holes of the woods, or cause others to carry 
them there. During the latter years, almost 
all of them reposed the greatest confidence in 
us, and entertained the utmost good-will to- 
wards us, and if they remembered our having 
fever cured them with any medicine, desired to 
have it given to their hordesmen when they fell 
ill. From one instance you may judge of 
others. In the northern parts of Paraguay there 
grows a nut, called Pinon del Paraguay by the 
Spaniards, and by physicians nui^ cathartica, be- 
cause it causes both vomiting and purging. It 
ridiculously deceived the first Spaniards who 
visited Paraguay. Delighted with its sweet- 
ness they eagerly ate this fruit, and to the 
great amusement of all, found what they had 
taken for food to be a medicine, which attacks 
the human body with double arms, and expels 
noxious or superfluous humours by two ways. 
We gave three or four of these nuts to the Abi- 
pones, for whom we thought purging necessary, 
and they all received great benefit from the use 
of them. Hence, whenever they felt any 
weight on- their stomachs, thev asked us for 
this medicine of their own accord. The same 
was the case with regard to other remedies. 
The old women, who obstinately adhered to 

s 3 



former customs, raved when they found their 
medicines laughed at, and the fountain of their 
gains dried up. The jugglers, who had sucked 
the bodies, and drained the property of the 
sick, were despised by their countrymen as a 
set of worthless drones. 

The Patagonians, and other southern savages, 
think the body of a sick person to be possessed 
of an evil demon. Their phy&icians carry about 
drums, with horrible forms depicted on them, 
which they strike by the sick man's bed, either 
to consult the demon concerning the nature of 
the disease, or to drive it from the body of their 
patient. If any one dies of a disease, the rela- 
tions persecute the physician most terribly, as 
the author of his death. If a Cacique dies, they 
put all the physicians to death, that they may 
not fly elsewhere. Actuated by an irrational 
kind of pity, they bury the dying before they 
expire. Father Strobl pulled one man alive 
from the grave. The Guaycurus call their phy- 
sicians Nigienigis. A gourd filled with hard 
seeds, and a fan of dusky emu feathers are their 
chief insignia, and medical instruments, which 
they always carry in their hands that they may 
be known. I must not omit to speak of the phy- 
sicians of the Chiquitos. A juggler physician, 
when he goes to visit the sick, fills his belly 
with the most exquisite dainties, chickens, hens. 



and partridges, that he may render his breath 
wholesomer and stronger to suck and blow the 
body of his patient. Whilst the physician 
feasts sumptuously, the sick man has insipid 
half-boiled maize given him to eat. If he dis- 
likes this, no one will exhort the poor wretch to 
take food, so that more persons die of hunger 
than of the disease. At his first coming, the 
physician overwhelms the sick man with an 
hundred questions : "■ Where were you yester- 
day ?" says he. " What roads did you tread 1 
Did you overturn the jug, and spill the drink 
prepared from maize ? What ? Have you im- 
prudently given the flesh of a tortoise, stag, or 
boar, to be devoured by dogs ?" Should the sick 
man confess to having done any of these things, 
" It is well," replies the physician, " we have 
discovered the cause of your disorder. The soul 
of that beast having entered your body torments 
you even now, and is, alas ! the origin of the 
pains you feel." The savage takes this for an 
oracle. The cure is immediately set about. 
The juggler sucks the afflicted part once, twice, 
and three times. Then muttering a doleful 
charm, he knocks the floor on which the sick 
man is lying, with a club, to frighten away the 
soul of that animal from his patient's body. A 
crueller method of curing was once customary 
amongst the Chiquitos. 




When a husband fell ill, they used to kill the 
wife, thinking her the cause of his sickness, and 
foolishly imagining that, when she was removed, 
he would be sure to recover. At other times 
they consulted their physicians, which of the 
female jugglers occasioned the disease. These 
men, actuated either by desire of vengeance or 
interested motives, named whomsoever they 
chose, and were not required to bring any proofs 
of the guilt of the accused. The sentence of a 
juggler was an oracle, and people assembled 
from all parts to put it in execution. Such 
were the Chiquitos before they were civilized 
by the Jesuits. 





Death is dreadful to most mortals, but par- 
ticularly so to the Abipones. They cannot 
even bear the sight of a dying person. Hence, 
whenever any one's life is despaired of, his 
fellow inmates immediately forsake the house, 
or are driven away by the old women who 
remain to take care of the sick, lest they 
should be so affected by the mournful spec- 
tacle, that fear of death should make them 
shrink from endangering their lives in battle. 
They are, therefore, obliged to pass many 
nights in another person's tent, or in the open 
air. As they have very little experience 
of persons dying a natural death, they do 
not know the signs of it when it draws near. 
A short abstinence from food, unusual silence, 
or sleeplessness, makes them presage approach- 
ing dissolution. As soon as a report is spread 
that a man is dying, the old women, who are 
either related to the person, or famed for medi- 
cal skill, flock to his house. They stand in a row 
round the sick man's bed, with dishevelled hair 



and bare shoulders, striking a gourd, the mourn- 
ful sound of which they accompany with violent 
motion of the feet and arms, and loud vocifera- 
tions. She who excels the rest in age, or fame for 
medical skill, stands nearest to the dying man's 
head, and strikes an immense military drum, 
which returns a horrible bellowing. Another, 
who is appointed to watch the sick man, re- 
moves every now and then the bull's hide with 
which he is covered, examines his face, and if 
he seems yet to breathe, sprinkles him plenti- 
fully with cold water, a jug of which is placed 
under the bed. When I first witnessed these 
things, I pitied the fate of the sick man, who, I 
feared, would be killed, if not by the disease, at 
any rate by the howling of the women and the 
noise of the drum, or else smothered by the 
weight of the hide, with which the whole body 
is covered, and which is as hard and as heavy 
as a board. Under the pretext of compassion, 
they use all this cruelty to the departing soul, 
that the women may be spared the sight of 
his last agonies, and the hearing of his groans. 
If the respiration of the dying man be not heard 
at a distance like a pair of bellows in Vulcan's 
workshop, and if his breath stop even for a 
moment, they proclaim with a Stentorian voice, 
that he has given up the ghost. A great crowd 
assembles on all sides, exclaiming, he is dead. 



he is no more. All the married women and 
widows of the town crowd to the mourning, 
attired as I have described before, and whilst 
they are filling the streets with confused wail- 
ings, with the rattling of gourds and beating of 
pans covered with stags' skins, a sudden shout 
is often heard announcing, that the man whom 
they mourn for as dead is come to life again. 
The joyous exclamation, he is revived, is in- 
stantly substituted for the mournful howling of 
the women, some of whom return home, whilst 
others hasten to the miserable mortal on the 
confines of life and death, and torment him 
with their dreadful yellings, till at last they 
deprive him of life. After his death, the first 
business of the bystanders is to pull out the 
heart and tongue of the deceased, boil them, 
and give them to a dog to devour, that the 
author of his death may soon die also. The 
corpse, while yet warm, is clothed accord- 
ing to the fashion of his country, wrapped in a 
hide, and bound with leathern thongs, the head 
being covered with a cloth, or any garment at 
hand. The savage Abipones will not endure 
the body of a dead man to remain long in the 
house; while yet warm, it is conveyed on 
ready horses to the grave. Women are ap- 
pointed to go forward on swift steeds, to dig 
the grave, and honour the funeral with la- 



mentations. What, if we say that many of 
the Abipones are buried because they are 
thought dead, but that in reality they die, 
because they are buried ? It is not unlikely 
that these poor wretches are suffocated, either 
by the hide with which they are bound, or by 
the earth which is heaped over them. But as 
they pull out the heart and tongue of the de- 
ceased, it cannot be doubted that they are 
dead when they are buried ; though I strongly 
suspect that the heart is sometimes cut out 
when they are half alive, and would perhaps 
revive were they not prematurely deprived of 
this necessary instrument of life. The savages, 
who hasten the burying of their dead so much, 
presumed to censure us for keeping the Chris- 
tian Indians out of their graves many hours 
after their decease. 

The Abipones think it a great happiness to 
be buried in a wood under the shade of trees, 
and grieve for the fate of those that are interred 
in a chapel, calling them captives of the Father. , 
In the dread of such sepulture, they at first 
shunned baptism. They dig a very shallow 
pit to place the body in, that it may not be 
pressed by too great a weight of earth heaped 
over it. They fill the surface of the grave 
with thorny boughs, to keep off tigers, which 
delight in carcasses. On the top of the sepul- 



chre, they place an inverted pan, that if the 
dead man should stand in need of water, he 
may not want a vessel to hold it in. They 
hang a garment from a tree near the place of in- 
terment, for him to put on if he chooses to come 
out of the grave. They also fix a spear near the 
graves of men, that an instrument of war and the 
chase may be in readiness for them. For the 
same purpose, beside the graves of their Caciques, 
and men distinguished for military fame, they 
place horses, slain with many ceremonies; a 
custom common to most of the equestrian 
savages in Paraguay. The best horses, those' 
which the deceased used and delighted in most, 
are generally slain at the grave. 

Laugh as much as you please at the sepul- 
chral rites of the Abipones ; you cannot deny 
them to be a proof of their believing in the 
immortality of the soul. They know that some- 
thing of them will survive after death, which 
will last to all eternity, and never die ; but 
what becomes of that immortal thing, which we 
call the soul, and they the image, shade, or 
echo, when it is separated from the body, and 
whether it will enjoy pleasures or receive pu- 
nishments, they never think of enquiring. The 
southern savages believe that it dwells under 
the earth in tents, and employs itself in hunting, 
and that the spirits of dead emus descend 




along with it to the same subterranean abode: 
The Abipones, who do not credit such idle 
tales, believe that some part of them survives 
the death of the body, and that it exists some- 
where, but they openly confess themselves ig- 
norant of the place and other circumstances. 
They fear the manes or shades of the defunct, 
and believe that they become visible to the 
living when invoked by a magic incantation, to 
be interrogated concerning future things. As 
I was passing the night on the banks of the 
Parana, the Abipones, my companions, hearing 
their voices re-echoed against the trees, and 
windings of the shores, attributed the circum- 
stance to ghosts and disembodied spirits wan- 
dering in these solitudes, till I explained to 
them the nature of an echo. They call little 
ducks, which fly about in flocks at night uttering 
a mournful hiss, the shades of the dead. These, 
ana other circumstances, which I have related 
elsewhere, prove that the Abipones believe in 
the immortality of the soul. 

It is incredible how religiously the Abipones 
perform the sepulchral honours of their friends. 
If they see one of their comrades fall in battle 
they snatch the lifeless body from the midst of 
the enemies to bury it properly in its native soil. 
To lessen the burden, they strip off" the flesh 
and bury it in the ground ; the bones they put 



into a hide, and carry home on a horse, a jour- 
ney not unfrequently of two hundred leagues. 
But if the enemy presses on them, and they are 
forced to leave the body on the field of battle, 
the relations seek for the bones on the first 
opportunity, and take no rest till they find them, 
however much risk and labour must be en- 
countered in accomplishing this. Moreover, 
the Abipones are not content with any sepul- 
chre, but take especial care that fathers may 
lie with their sons, wives with their husbands, 
grandchildren with their grandfathers and 
great-grandfathers, and that every family should 
have its own burying-place. This nation, 
having formerly inhabited more towards the 
north, know that their ancestors' monuments 
exist there, and venerate them as something 
divine. They feel the most lively pleasure in 
mingling the bones of their countrymen, where- 
ever, amidst their perpetual peregrinations, they 
may have been buried, with the bones of their 
ancestors. Hence it is that they dig them up 
and remove them so often, and carry them over 
immense tracts of land, till at length they re- 
pose in the ancient and woody mausoleum of 
their forefathers ; which they distinguish by 
certain marks cut in the trees, and by other 
signs taught them by their ancestors. The 
Brazilians and Guaranies formerly disliked the 



trouble of digging pits for sepulchres. These 
hungry anthropophagi buried within their own 
bowels the flesh of those that yielded to fate. 
It must be confessed however that the Gua- 
ranies of after-times, more humane than their 
ancestors, placed dead bodies in clay pitchers. 
Seeking the savages in Mbaevera in the midst 
of the woods, I met with a plain artificially 
made, the trees being cut down for the pur- 
pose, and there I found three pitchers of this 
kind, each of which would contain a man, but 
all empty. The bottoms of the pitchers were 
placed toward the sky, the mouth towards the 
ground. But from sepulchres, let us hasten to 
funeral obsequies. 





Of those things which the Abipones do to 
testify their grief, according to the customs 
established by their ancestors, some tend to 
obliterate the memory of the defunct, others to 
perpetuate it. All the utensils belonging to the 
lately deceased are burnt on a pile. Besides 
the horses killed at the tomb, they slay his 
small cattle if he have any. The house which 
he inhabited they pull entirely to pieces. His 
widow, children, and the rest of his family re- 
move elsewhere ; and having no house of their 
own, reside for a time in that of some other 
person, or lodge miserably under mats. They 
had rather endure the injuries of the weather, 
than, contrary to the laws of their countrymen] 
inhabit a commodious house that has been sad- 
dened by the death of the dear master of it. 
To utter the name of a lately deceased person 
is reckoned a nefarious offence amongst the 
Abipones ; if, however, occasion requires that 
mention should be made of that person, they 
say, " The man that does not now exi§t," 




making use of a paraphrase. But if the name 
of the defunct be derived from an appellative 
noun, the word is abolished by proclamation, 
and a new one substituted. It is the prero- 
gative of the old women to invent these new 
names, which are quickly divulgated amongst 
the widely-scattered hordes of the Abipones, 
and are so firmly imprinted on their minds, that 
no one individual is ever heard to utter a pro- 
scribed word. 

AH the friends and relations of the deceased 
change the names they formerly bore. In the 
colony of the Rosary, the wife of the chief 
Cacique dying of the small-pox, her husband 
changed his name of Revachigi to that of Oa- 
hari. His mother and brother and captive, as 
well as all the brothers of the deceased, had 
new names given them with various ceremo- 
nies. The old mother of the Cacique was ex- 
tremely fond of a lank, scraggy dog, unworthy 
of the very air it breathed. When this change 
of names was made, I asked the old woman 
what name would be given her dog, to show 
them that we held their absurd rites in ridicule, 
though unable at that time to prevent them; 
On the death of a Cacique, all the men under 
his authority shave their long hair as a sign of 
grief. Widows also have their hair shaven, and 
wear a kind of cloak made of the caraquata. 



Stained black and red, which covers the head 
like a hood, and flows down from the shoulders 
to the breast. Widows use this cloak all their 
lives, unless a new marriage frees them from 
the unpleasant law of perpetual mouTning. 
An Abiponian husband when he loses his wife 
shaves his hair in like manner, and wears a 
small woollen cap, which he publicly receives 
from the hands of an old woman, the priestess 
' of the ceremonies, whilst the other women are 
engaged in lamenting, and the men in drinking 
together, and which he throws off when his hair 
begins to grow. 

But let me now discourse upon what entirely 
consoles the Abipones forthe loss of theirfriends, 
and renders the very necessity of mourning so 
pleasant to them. Leaving the care of inhuming 
the body and lamenting for it to the women, 
they seek for honey in the woods to serve as 
materials for the public drinking-party, to which 
they all flock at sun-set. At any report of the 
death of an Abipon we always pitied the women, 
upon whom devolved all the^ trouble of the 
exequies, the care of the funeral, and the labour 
of making the gTave, and of mourning. For 
besides that the corpse was to be carried to the 
grave, and inhumed by them, all standing in a 
row, and -uttering repeated lamentations, the 
widowers were to be shaved, the widows veiled, 

T 2 



the names of the relations of the deceased to be 
changed, the funeral drinking-party to be at- 
tended, and the houses to be demolished ; in 
short, they had to go through the trouble of a 
public mourning of nine days' continuance. 
This is of two kinds. One which is held by 
day in the streets by all but the unmarried 
women, and another carried on at night in 
houses appointed for the purpose, and which 
none but those that are specially invited attend. 
At stated hours, both in the forenoon and after- 
noon, all the women in the town assemble in 
the market-place, with their hair scattered 
about their shoulders, their breast and back 
naked, and a skin hanging from their loins. 
The expression of their faces inspires I can 
hardly tell whether most of melancholy or ter- 
ror. Picture to yourself a set of Bacchanals or 
infernal furies, and you will have a good idea of 
them. They do not lament in one place by 
day. They go up and down the whole market- 
place, like supplicants, walking separately but 
all in one very long row. You may sometimes 
count as many as two hundred. They go leap- 
ing like frogs. The motion of their feet is ac- 
companied by a continual tossing about of their 
arms. Each strikes a gourd containing various 
seeds t&ihe measure of her voice; but some, 
instead of a gourd, beat a pan covered with 



does' skins, which makes the most ridiculous 
noise you can conceive. To every three or four 
gourds one of these drums answers. But what 
offends the ear most is the shouting of the 
mourners. They modulate their voices, like 
singers, and make trills and quavers mingled 
with groans. After chaunting some mournful 
staves in this manner they all cease at intervals, 
and, changing their voices from the highest to 
the lowest key, suddenly utter a very shrill 
hissing. You would swear that a knife had 
been laid to their throats. By this sudden 
howl they signify that they are seized with 
rage, uttering all sorts of imprecations on the 
author of the death, whoever he be. Some- 
times, intermitting this chaunt, they recite a few 
verses in a declamatory tone, in which they 
extol the good quahties and deeds of the de- 
ceased, and in a querulous voice endeavour to 
excite the compassion and vengeance of the 
survivors. At other times they mingle tears 
with their wailings, tears extorted not by grief, 
but by habit, or, perhaps, by exhaustion. Most 
of them carry about some little gift or remem- 
brance of the deceased, as emu feathers, glass- 
beads, a knife, or a dagger. I will now de- 
scribe their method of lamenting by night. 
About evening, all the women that are invited 




assemble in a hut, one of the female jugglers 
presiding over the party, and regulating the 
chaunting and other rites. It is her business 
to strike two large drums alternately, and to 
sing the doleful funeral song, the rest observing 
the same measure of voice. This infernal elegy, 
accompanied with the rattling of gourds and 
bellowing of drums, lasts till morning. The 
same method is observed for eight days with- 
out variation ; on the ninth night, if they be 
mourning for a woman, the pans are broken, 
not without proper ceremonies. The tragic 
• howl, which they uttered on the preceding 
nights, now gives place to a more festive chaunt, 
which the old female drummeress interrupts at 
intervals with out-stretched jaws and a deep, 
and, as it were, threatening voice, seemingly to 
exhort her singing companions to hilarity and 
louder notes. These nocturnal lamentations, 
which continue nine days, are commenced at 
the setting and concluded at the rising of the 
sun. The patience displayed by the women in 
enduring so many sleepless nights is truly asto- 
nishing, but still more so is that of the men who 
can sleep soundly whilst the air is filled with 
confused shouts, and the noise of gourds and 
drums. Nor are funeral rites alone conducted 
in this manner. The sacred anniversaries to 



the memory of their ancestors are religiously 
celebrated with the same rites and ceremonies. 
Should the memory of her dead mother enter a 
woman's mind, she immediately loosens her 
hair, seizes a gourd, paces up and down the 
street with some women whom she calls to par- 
take in her mourning, and fills the air with 
lamentation. Few nights pass that you do not 
hear women mourning. This they do upon 
their feet, with their bodies turned towards the 
spot where the deceased is buried, always ac- 
companying their lamentations with the sound 
of gourds. Women find weeping easier than 
silence, and this is the reason why the nights 
are so seldom passed in quietness. The vocife- 
ration, however, always grows more violent as 
the day approaches; for when one begins to 
lament another follows her example, then a 
third comes, and then a fourth, till, by day- 
break, the number of mourners seems greater 
than that of sleepers. The men meantime are 
by no means idle. The grief which the women 
express with tears and shrieks, they testify by 
shedding the blood of enemies or their own. 
The nearest of kin to the deceased imme- 
diately assembles all the fellow-soldiers he can 
raise, and leads them against the foreign foes 
by whose hands his relation perished. It is 

T 4 



his business to make the first attack against 
the author of the death, and not to return 
home till he has fully revenged it ; though these 
savage heroes sometimes make an inglorious 
retreat, without obtaining vengeance on theiy 


A FEW things remain to be said of the ceremo- 
nies with which the bones of the dead are ho- 
noured by the Abipones when they are removed 
to their native land, and thence to the family 
burying-places. Many translations of this kind 
have I witnessed : T will briefly relate that of 
the Cacique Ychamenraikin, who was killed 
in battle by the savages at a place full forty 
leagues distant from the town of St. Jeronymo. 
A drummer came announcing that the bones of 
the deceased leader would be carried into the 
town next day about evening. After the flesh 
had been stripped off and buried by his compa- 
nions, they were put into a hide and conveyed 
on a horse. To receive these bones with due 
honour, preparations were made by Hanetrain, 
the chief of the jugglers, and his companion La- 
mamin, and a house to place the sad remains in 
appointed and properly furnished. The whole 
company of the women hastened to meet the 
funeral at three leagues distance. At the en- 
trance of the town the order of the funeral pro- 
cession was this : the mournful train was led by 



two jugglers, mounted on horses ornamented 
with bells, horse-cloths and ostrich feathers. 
They brandished in their hands a spear, to 
which was affixed a brazen bell. They did not 
keep with the rest, but galloping forwards, rode 
up and down as if they were skirmishing, then 
returned into the path like persons making an 
assault, and rejoined the rest of the company. 
These were followed by a train of women la- 
menting in the manner I have described. Six 
Abipones in place of an umbrella held up at the 
end of their spears an elegant square cloth woven 
like a carpet, under which they carried the sack 
of bones. The company was closed by the troop 
of the other Abipones, all mounted on horses, 
furnished with a spear, a bow, and a quiver, and 
with their heads shaven. The victors were fol- 
lowed by a band of women and children lately 
taken in war, so that this otherwise mournful 
spectacle bore more the appearance of a 
triumph than of a funeral. On each side was 
seen a multitude of horses hastening to their 
pastures after the military expedition. All the 
ways were crowded with boys and girls careless 
of the lamentations, but struck with the novelty 
of the spectacle. The bones being placed in a 
house prepared for their reception, the regular 
mourning was carried on for nine days. Noc- 
turnal wailings were as usual added to those of 



the day. That the lamentations might be car- 
ried on without intermission, the jugglers, car^ 
rying a spear with a bell at the end of it, visited 
all the houses to admonish the women at what 
hours to mourn. The funeral compotation, 
meantime, and the conducting of it as magnifi- 
cently as was due to the memory of so great a 
leader, was the sole care of the men — a care ad- 
mirably calculated to abate the poignancy of 
their grief; and indeed it would be difficult to 
decide whether the men drank, or the women 
mourned most pertinaciously. Whilst this was 
going on at home, persons of both sexes were 
chosen to accompany the bones of Ychamenrai- 
kin to his family burying-place, and there inter 
them agreeably to the rites of their country. 
These ceremonies were observed by the savages 
before they were instructed in the Christian re- 
ligion only. Other removals of bones were con- 
ducted in exactly the same manner, with the 
exception of the canopy, which was reserved 
exclusively for their leaders. The bones of 
seven Abipones, who had been slain by the Spa- 
niards, were brought home on one day, and 
skilfully constructed into as many images; hats 
being placed on their skulls, and clothes on 
their bodies. These seven skeletons were 
placed in a savage hut, honoured for nine sue- 



cessive days with mourning and drinking, and 
thence transported to their graves. 

Should there be any European who makes 
little account of sepulture, saying with Virgil, 

Coslo tegiiur qui non habet urnam, 

that man is of a very different way of thinking 
from the Abipones, who esteem it the greatest 
misfortune to be left to rot in the open air. 
Hence amongst them, persons inflamed with the 
desire of revenge contemptuously cast away the 
carcasses of their enemies, making fifes and 
trumpets of their bones, and using their skulls 
for cups. On the other hand, they honourably 
inter the smallest bone of one of their friends, 
paying it every possible mark of respect. We 
have known savage Guaranies, who, in all their 
migrations, carried with them little boxes con- 
taining the relics of their jugglers, and in them, 
as in holy preservatives, placed all their hopes. 
These monuments of savage superstition were at 
length taken away by the missionaries, and 
burnt by them in the presence of all. The Gua- 
ranies newly brought from the woods to our 
colonies had no stronger inducement to em- 
brace the Catholic religion than the seeing their 
countrymen buried by us with honourable cere- 
monies and a solemn chaunt. But now, after 
I have discoursed with prolixity on the diseases. 

physicians, medicines, death, and sepulture of 
the Abipones, it cannot be thought foreign to 
the course of my history to treat of the serpents 
and noxious insects which inflict death on many, 
and threaten it to all : it will also be agreeable 
to Europeans to know by what means the 
Americans defend themselves against serpents, 
or expel the poison of their wounds. 





Paraguay contains full twenty kinds of ser- 
pents, all differing in name, colour, size, form, 
and the nature of their poison. Those most 
commonly known are the Mboytiiii, or Mboy- 
chini, the Quiririo, the Yacanina, the Mboyhobi, 
the Mboyquatia, the Mboype-guazu, or Cucu- 
rucu, the Mboype-miri, the Yboya, the Tareym- 
boya, the Mboyguazu, or Yboya, the Mboyroy, 
the Curiyu, the Ybiboboca, the Yacapecoaya, the 
Yararaca, the Cacaboya, &c. The Mboychini, 
or Rattle- snake, which is remarkable for its 
venom and the tinkling appendage to its tail, is 
about the thickness of a man's arm at the elbow, 
and often as much as five feet in length. It has 
a forked tongue, a flat head, little blackish eyes, 
four teeth in the upper jaw, besides other un- 
usually acute and incurvated ones, from the 
hollows of which it darts poison at all it meets. 
Some lesser teeth are visible when the animal 
opens its mouth. The colour of the back, which 
is much deeper at the sides, is a dusky yellow, 
varied with yellow lines intersecting one ano- 
ther at the spine. It is covered with dusky 



scales, like those of a crocodile, but softer. The 
belly is of a yellowish colour, with rather large 
and almost parallelogram scales: at the ex- 
tremity of the tail is situated that rattle from 
which it takes its name, and which is com- 
posed of a smooth, dry, cinereous material, the 
breadth of a man's thumb. Here and there it 
has a small hollow cell divided in the midst by a 
thin membrane, containing a little ball not per- 
fectly round, which, being agitated by every mo- 
tion of the sexpent, and shaken against its re- 
ceptacle, makes a sound like the wooden rattle 
which children use. Every year a fresh joint 
grows on to the rattle, as in stags-horns, con- 
nected with vertebrae, like the chains of a ring. 
From the joints of the rattle you may tell the 
age of the serpent, as you may that of a stag 
from the -branches of his horns. Hence the 
older the serpent the more it rattles. This snake 
when angry coils itself up ; when purposing an 
attack it moves along the ground so swiftly that 
it almost seems to fly. Providence has fastened 
that tinkling appendage to its tail in order to 
warn others from approaching it, for its poison 
is justly accounted the most virulent of any ; 
the remedies which prove efficacious against the 
bites of other serpents, have been found un- 
availing against those of the rattle- snake, which 
causes certain but slow death, the deadly poi- 



son gradually diffusing itself through all the 
members. It takes away the use of the foot, 
arm, ear, and eye on that side which has been 
bitten, and presently, passing to the other^ 
causes extreme torture, continual delirium, and 
acute pains, especially at the extremity of the 
feet and hands, which contract a cadaverous 
paleness from being deserted by the blood, 
which is rendered torpid by the coldness of the 
venom. All this I observed in two Guarany 
youths who were bitten by a rattle-snake. Both 
were under eighteen years of age, both were ro- 
bust and of strong constitutions. The first 
struggled with his pains twelve days, the other 
fourteen, at the expiration of which period they 
both died, the strength of the poison baffling 
the virtue of the most established remedies. 
Whenever I heard of any person's being bitten 
by a rattle-snake I immediately prepared him 
for death, by administering the sacrament to 
him, before the delirium began. An Indian 
woman, in the flower of her age and strength, 
was reduced to the last extremity by the pesti- 
lential bite of one of these rattle-snakes. How- 
ever, to the astonishment of all, she escaped 
death, but having lost the use of her limbs, 
dragged on a miserable existence for many 
• A letter dated Williamsburg, a town of Vir- 



ginia, September the 28th, 1869, and published 
in the German newspapers of the 6th of Jan. 
1770, tends greatly to confirm the virulence 
of the poison of the rattle-snake : the contents 
are as follows. '' In Johnston county, North 
Carolina, at the latter end of June, a rattle- 
snake crept into a house, where four children 
were lying on the ground, the youngest of 
which it bit with its poisoned teeth. The 
father, awakened by the screams of the child, 
ran to render it assistance, and was at the 
same moment wounded by it himself. Mean- 
time, whilst he was seeking some weapon 
to slay the deadly animal, the other three 
children were also wounded. With the utmost 
haste and diligence all sorts of remedies were 
applied to the wounded, but in vain, for the 
father and his four children expired next day." 
Has not then nature, you ask me, supplied a 
remedy powerful enough to expel this deadly 
poison? She may perhaps have afforded many 
which human ingenuity has not yet discovered, 
but which are at any rate unknown to the Para- 
guayrians. I am not ignorant that books do 
speak of medicines for this purpose, which they 
extol as divine, but all who have used them 
have found them of no avail. The Brazilians 
make use of little gourds, by Avhich the poi- 

VOL. IT. u 



soned wound is enlarged and dried. Sometimes 
they bind the wounded member with the rush 
Jacape to prevent the poison from spreading. 
They sometimes cauterize the wounded part. 
Before the poison reaches the heart the sick 
man is induced to sweat by drinking Tipioca. 
Some Indians place much faith in the bruised 
head of a noxious serpent applied to the wound, 
which they also bathe in fasting saliva. But 
whether these remedies ever saved the life of 
any one who has been bitten by this most ve- 
nomous snake I must be allowed to doubt. 
However destructive the teeth of these serpents 
are when employed to bite, they become salu- 
tary when used as medicine : for they say that 
the Brazilians prick their necks with them to 
ease the pain of the head-ache. They think it 
useful to anoint the loins, and other parts of a 
sick person's body, as well as ' swellings, with 
the fat of this snake. Its head also, when tied 
to the neck of the sick man, is said to cure 
pains in the throat. This method of healing 
was unknown to us in Paraguay. 

The next to this in noxious qualities is a 
snake twelve, and sometimes fifteen feet long, 
with a large body the colour of ashes, varied 
with little black spots, yellowish under the 
belly, and formidable on account of a peculiar 



poison it contains and introduces with its bite. 
The Brazilians call it Cucurucu, the Guaranies 
Mboyp^ guazu; and from its effects I guess it to 
be the same as that which Phny calls Haemor- 
rhoam, and others Haemorrhoida. This snake 
is most abundant where heat and moisture, the 
generators of serpents, predominate. Its poison 
heats the veins, and expels the ebullient blood 
from the mouth, nose, ears, eyes, finger-nails, 
in a word from all the outlets and pores of the 
body. This is related by Patricio Fernandez, 
who asserts that few persons are killed by this 
serpent, because most part of the poison flows 
out with the blood itself. For my part I never 
saw any serpent of that kind, nor any person 
that had been bitten by one, though I under- 
stand that they are not unfrequent in Brazil, 
where the Indians apply the head of the serpent 
to the wound it has inflicted, by way of a ca- 
taplasm ; fresh tobacco leaves slightly burnt are 
used for a cautery. The roots also of the Caa- 
pia, Jurepeba, Urucu, Jaborandy, &c. are used 
to create perspiration. They say that, when the 
head of this serpent, in which greatest part of 
the poison lies, is cut off", the flesh is eaten by 
the savages of Brazil. In Paraguay, besides the 
Mboyp^ guazu, you meet with the Mboyp^ miri; 
which is scarce thicker than a quill. Though 

u 2 



smaller, it is more poisonous than the larger ser- 
pent of the same name. 

The Yacanin^ is to be reckoned amongst the 
larger and more dangerous serpents. It is two, 
sometimes three ells long, and as thick as a 
man's arm. It raises itself upon the last joint 
of its tail, and leaps upon people almost as if it 
were flying. The Quiririo terrifies the bravest 
with its very aspect. The size and colours of 
its body, and the strong poison it contains, are 
the occasion of this terror. The Mboyhobi, of 
a dark green colour, spotted with black, very 
large both as to length and breadth, and preg- 
nant with the most noxious poison, infests all 
the plain country. On the other hand, the 
Mboyquatia is chiefly found within the walls of 
houses. It has obtained its name from the 
beautiful variety of its colours. It is middle- 
sized, but of a very virulent poison. In the 
rivers and lakes water- snakes of various shapes 
and monstrous size wander in great numbers. 
They are thought not to be venomous, though 
formidable to swimmers; for their horrid teeth 
never leave loose of any thing they have once 
got hold of. They squeeze animals to death 
with the folds of their bodies. Of the number 
of these is the Mboyroy, called by the Guara- 
nies the cold serpent, because it loves cold 



places and shade. Another is the Curiyu, eight, 
and often nine ells long, and of breadth cor- 
responding to such great length. This water- 
snake aifords the Indians a dainty repast. Re- 
markable above the rest is a serpent of enor^ 
mous size, but perfectly innocent in its nature. 
The Ampalaba is thicker than a man's breast, 
and larger than any water-snake. It is of a light 
reddish colour, and resembles the trunk of a very 
large tree covered with moss. As I was travelling 
through the territory of St. lago, at the banks 
of a lake near the river Dulce, my horse sud- 
denly took fright. Upon my enquiring of my 
companion the occasion of the animal's terror, 
he replied, " What, Father ! did you not see the 
Ampalaba snake lying on the shore ?" I had seen 
him, but had taken him for the trunk of a tree. 
Fearing that the horse would be alarmed and 
throw me, I did not think proper to stay and 
examine the great sparkling eyes, short but 
very acute teeth, horrid head, and many-co- 
loured scales of the monster. These serpents 
live under water, but come frequently on shore, 
and even climb lofty trees. They never attack 
men, and it is most likely that they are devoid 
of poison. All however agree that Ampalabas 
are fond of'rabbits, goats and does, which they 
attract with their breath, and swallow whole, 

u 3 



As it must require an enormous throat to swal- 
low a doe, you will perhaps think an equal faci- 
lity of mind necessary to believe the fact. I 
candidly own that I never saw it done, but 
should not venture to doubt the truth of a thing 
that has been affirmed by creditable authors, 
and eye-witnesses. 






The Jesuit Eusebius Nierenberg speaks of a 
stupid snake, which, from the description, I 
take to be the same as the Ampalaba. " It is 
the thickness of a man," says he, ''and twice as 
long. It inhabits rocks and caves, (perhaps when 
rivers and pools are wanting,) and feeds upon 
animals, which it attracts with its breath. Some 
Indians, in travelling, sat down upon it, taking 
it for the trunk of a tree ; and it was not till the 
snake began to move that they perceived what 
an unstable and terrific seat they had chosen. 
It is however reputed harmless. These snakes 
are of such vast size, that eighteen soldiers sat 
down upon one, thinking it to be a log of 
wood. They lie in wait for stags, which they 
attract by the force of their breath, a power 
they do not possess over men. After squeez- 
ing the stag to death, they lick it all over from 
head to foot, in order that they may swallow 
it more easily ; but suffer the head, which the 
horns prevent them from swallowing, to re- 
main in their mouth till it putrefies. Ants some- 

u 4 - 



times enter the open mouth of this snake and 
kill it." 

I must not omit to mention an immense snake, 
which the Guaranies call Moiiay. In its vast 
size, wide mouth, sparkling eyes, row of threat- 
ening teeth, and spotted scaly skin, it resembles 
a dragon. Father Manuel Guttierrez, when he 
travelled through the Tarumensian wilds, saw 
a monster of that kind in passing the banks of 
the river Yuquiry. An Indian, his companion, 
threw a thong used for catching horses round 
the animal's neck and strangled it. The In- 
dians of St. Joachim were not so courageous, 
for when sent forwards by me to prepare the 
way for the royal governour, who was coming 
that day, they returned home in great trepida- 
tion, because they had seen the Monay snake 
lurking in a very thick grove at the banks of a 
rivulet. Being asked the cause of their alarm, 
they described the horrible spectacle they had 
seen. A few days after I had an opportunity of 
witnessing the truth of the matter myself. A 
report being spread that the governour was com- 
ing next day, we went out to meet him, and as 
soon as ever I approached the rivulet where the 
snake had lately been seen, my horse suddenly 
began to foam, kick, and run away. The Indians 
were all of opinion that he perceived the monster 
lurking in its cave by the scent. The reason 



why the Mohay does so little mischief is be- 
cause it generally inhabits hidden groves, soli- 
tary shores, or caves far from human sight. 

. Though serpents of every kind wander up 
and down, yet some seek lurking-places under 
the water, some amongst grass and trees, and 
others only within the walls of houses and hol- 
low places. The Mboyquatia inhabits the 
chinks of ruinous walls. Numbers of these 
snakes were killed in the church at St. Joachim, 
but as fresh ones grew up, they were never 
entirely got rid of. I would advise you never 
to sit down incautiously in fields, woods, and 
banks of lakes, without first examining the 
place. The Indians, who neglect this precaution, 
are often bitten by lurking serpents. Fatigued 
by a journey which I and my companions had 
taken on foot through the woods of Mbaevera, 
they had lain down at evening in a place where 
I observed decayed posts of palms, and the re- 
mains of huts scattered up and down the ground. 
I advised them to examine the spot! with care, 
and to remove the hewn palms, the refceptacies 
of noxious reptiles, for the safety of their lives 
They followed my injunctions. Under the first 
stake they discovered an immense serpent sit- 
ting upon seventeen eggs, and on that account 
the more dangerous. Presently another, and 
then more, appeared in sight. The eggs con- 



sist of a thin white skin, instead of a shell, and 
resemble an acorn in shape, though larger. 

I have often wondered that certain of the an- 
cients recommended fire to keep oif serpents, hav- 
ing found them, on the contrary, to be attracted 
by it. We continually see them creep to the fire, 
and steal into warm apartments for the sake of 
the heat. Virgil has justly given snakes the 
epithet oi frigid. The more copious and virulent 
their poison is, the intenser is the cold they 
labour under. Hence, in persons bitten by 
serpents, the blood congeals, and the extre- 
mities of the body stiffen and grow cold, as the 
circulation cannot reach them. That serpents 
love heat we know from daily experience. In the 
deserts we often were obliged to pass the night 
in the open air : on these occasions, no sooner 
was the fire kindled than we saw the snakes con- 
cealed in the vicinity approach to warm them- 
selves. Whenever the south wind renders the 
nights rather cold, they creep under the horse- 
cloths lying on the ground. When the earth 
is chill, serpents climb on to the roofs of houses 
to bask in the sun, and thence are induced by 
the sharp night-air to slip into the apartments 
below, to the imminent danger of the occupants. 
When lights are brought into a room of an even- 
ing, the doors should be carefully shut ; for the 
serpents in the neighbourhood, spying the light. 



immediately enter the house. These animals 
suddenly make their appearance in apartments 
built of brick or stone, and covered with tiles, 
when the door and windows are close shut, and 
not a chink is left unstopped. One of my com- 
panions had such a dread of serpents, that he 
never dared take any sleep till he had examined 
every corner of his apartment. There are some 
snakes which leap at all they meet, and bite fero- 
ciously. Paraguay also produces some harm- 
less ones, which are either devoid of poison, or 
the desire to use it, unless they be oiFended. 

Who does not know that some serpents lay 
eggs, whilst others produce a numerous living 
oiFspring ? The Americans believe that young 
serpents grow from the dead bodies of the old 
ones. Hence, whenever they kill any serpents 
they remove them to a great distance from their 
houses, and do not throw them on the ground, 
but hang them on trees or hedges. In Brazil, 
two Jesuit missionaries found a horrid-looking 
dead snake to which a young live one was 
clinging, and, on their shaking the carcass with 
sticks, eleven little serpents crawled from it. 
This account of serpents is closed by three in- 
sects, akin to each other in the quality of their 
venom. The Scolopendra, which has a smooth 
cylindrical body a span long, twice as thick as 
a man's thumb, and covered with a hard, cine- 

"\ ■ I'iJ:!:: 



reous skin, approaching to a cartilage, abounds 
with legs from head to foot, which I neither had 
power nor inclination to count. It contains a 
poison almost equal to that of a serpent, and its 
bite causes much both of pain and danger. 
After spending eighteen years in Paraguay, I at 
length saw and felt an animal till then known to 
me only by name. It bit me as I was asleep, 
and on waking, I perceived that the space be- 
tween the little and ring-finger, first looked red, 
and afterwards began to swell and grow painful. 
The tumour and inflammation hourly increasing, 
I could no longer doubt but that some venomous 
little animal had bitten me. Early in the night 
I heard an unusual noise amongst some tools 
that were lying under a bench in my room. 
Bringing a light, I discovered and killed the 
Scolopendra which had bitten me, and next day 
suspended it in our court-yard, and showed it to 
the Indians, who all declared that they had often 
seen and dreaded that animal in houses, fields, 
and banks of rivers. Do not confound the Sco- 
lopendra with the Oniscus, which is a dusky 
round worm, two inches in length, and scarce 
thicker than a goose's quill. The body is co- 
vered with rough yellow hairs. On the head 
you see here and there a double row of white 
spots. It has eight short thick feet. Which- 
ever part of the body it touches it violently in- 



flames, which certainly proves it to be venomous. 
The Paraguayrian scorpions are said to differ 
nothing from those of Europe in appearance, 
but their poison is milder and more easily cured. 
I think that scorpions must be very rare in Para- 
guay, since, after spending eighteen years there, 
and traversing greatest part of the province, I 
never saw one, nor heard of any person's being 
bitten by one. I remember that a Spaniard 
appointed to guard the cattle in the town of 
Concepcion, when lying sick at our house, 
was frightened by a scorpion, which put out 
its head two or three times from the wall, 
and that he passed a sleepless night in conse- 
quence, always keeping a knife in his hand 
against the threatening animal. Spiders of va- 
rious forms and sizes are every where to be met 
with. Venomous ones with flat bodies may be 
seen creeping along the walls. You should take 
the greatest care to avoid that very large kind, 
which the Spaniards call ararias peludas, hairy 
spiders. The body of this insect, which is about 
three inches in length, is composed of two parts. 
The fore-part is larger than the other, almost 
two inches long, an inch and a half wide, and 
somewhat compressed. The hind-part is more 
spherical, and in size and form resembles a nut- 
meg. A hole in the back supplies the place of 
a navel. It has two sparkling eyes : its long, 




and very sharp teeth, on account of their beauty, 
are set in gold by many persons, and used as 
toothpicks. The whole skin of this spider is 
covered with short blackish hairs, but as smooth 
and soft as silk. It has ten long legs divided 
by more or fewer joints, and entirely hairy, each 
of which ends in a forceps, like that of a crab. 
When angry, the insect bites. The bite, though 
scarce visible to the eye, is discovered by a cer- 
tain moisture, a livid tumour, and the severe 
pain it causes. We have found the venom of 
spiders prove not only dangerous but mortal : 
remedies efficacious in cases of serpent- wounds 
have scarce saved the lives of persons bitten by 
this large spider. These insects lurk chiefly in 
hedges, hollow trees, and ruined walls. 





Old books suggest various methods of keeping 
away serpents : but who that is acquainted with 
America would not despise the prescriptions of 
the old writers, adapted to fill pages only, not 
to be of any real use ? In preference to these 
ancient recipes I recommend the American 
ones, both because they are more expeditious 
and readier, and because their utility has been 
proved by long experience. The Christian 
Guaranies, whenever they accompanied me to 
seek the savages in the woods, carried fresh 
garlick in their girdles, and, notwithstanding 
the abundance of serpents we met, not one of 
my companions was ever bitten by one. Fol- 
lowing the example of the Indians, I always 
kept a string of garlick suspended near my bed, 
after being attacked by a serpent in my sleep. 
That serpents dislike the smell of garlick is well 
known both to the ancients and to country people, 
who rub the milk-pans with the juice of that 
herb, lest serpents, who are extremely fond of 
milk, should get into them. My faith, how- 
ever, in the efficacy of garlick was not a little 



shaken by one of my companions, who found 
a snake in the garden close to a plant of it. 
But the leaves of a plant are endued with dif- 
ferent properties from its roots and fruit. May 
not the garlick alone, and not the leaves, be 
the object of the serpent's abhorrence ? The 
Abipones and Mocobios suspend a crocodile's 
tooth from their neck or arm, thinking it a 
powerful amulet against snakes of every kind. 
In this they are imitated by many Missionaries 
and Spaniards, who often purchase the teeth of 
these animals at a high price. I have known 
Spaniards who thought themselves secure from 
the bites of serpents v/hen they had a bit of deer's 
skin about their body. There are persons who 
rub their feet and hands with the juice of a 
radish, and believe themselves fortified against 
poisons. I should not take upon me to despise 
these safeguards, because they are approved by 
the experience of the Americans ; but it is the 
part of a prudent person never to place such 
entire confidence in them as to lay aside cau- 
tion, and lose sight of danger, which, in regard 
to serpents, lurks where none appears. 

For this reason I constanlty exhorted the 
Americans to circumspection ; when they had 
to rest in the plain at night or mid-day, to 
choose a situation free from bushes, reeds, and 
caverns, and at a distance from the banks of 



pools and rivers ; to take a survey of the spot; 
to examine the tall grass, decayed trunks, and 
recesses of shrubs and rocks, before they sat 
or lay dovm. The Indians, who neglect these 
precautions, are constantly liable to the bites 
of serpents. Throwing themselves carelessly 
on the ground, they sleep soundly without a 
fear or a thought about serpents, and are often 
awakened with a scream by the bite of one. 
When travelling bare-footed they employ their 
eyes in watching birds in the air and monkeys 
in the trees, when they ought, at every step, 
to examine the dangerous ground they are 
treading. The Abipones, from being an eques- 
trian people, and more circumspect, seldomer 
suffer from serpents than the Guaranies, who 
always walk on foot, and use less caution. In 
the town of St. Joachim, where the climate is 
very hot, and the land is surrounded with 
marshes, rivers, and woods^ venomous animals 
are unusually numerous. Scarce a week passes 
that some Indians are not bitten by serpents. 
During the eight years that I spent in this town 
a vast number of persons were bitten by various 
serpents, but, with the exception of two youths 
who were killed by a rattle-snake, not a single 
individual died : all were healed by the use of 
one and the same remedy. Now listen atten- 
tively whilst I make you acquainted with that 




celestial, and almost miraculous, medicine, which, 
is as unknown out of Paraguay, as it is useful 
to the Paraguayrians. It is a very white flower, 
extremely like a lily in its leaves, stalk, blossom, 
and scent, except that it is smaller. The Spa- 
niards call it nard. It grows in all soils, flou- 
rishes at every part of the year, and is neither 
destroyed by long drought, nor by hoar frost. 
I never could meet with this flower either in 
European gardens, or in books treating of 
flowers, and have found the most scientific 
herbaUsts utterly unacquainted with it. After 
diligently examining every species of nard, I 
perceived that the Paraguayrian nard could 
not be referred to any of them. The root of 
this flower, either dried or fresh, is cut into 
small pieces and steeped in brandy. Part of 
this infusion, together with the root, is applied 
to the wound, and the rest taken inwardly by 
the patient. It is generally sufficient to do 
this once. But if it be necessary to repeat it a 
second and a third time, the force of the poison 
is destroyed, the swelling subsides, and the 
wound heals. The sooner you apply this re- 
medy, the quicker and more certainly you will 
repress the progress of the poison. Taught by 
the experience of eighteen years, I affirm it to 
be superior to all other remedies. With it we 
have triumphed over the poison of every snake 



but the rattle-snake. I cannot count the num- 
ber of Indians I have healed with this precious 
root. An Indian Guarany, as he was lying on 
the ground out of doors, was bitten by a ser- 
pent. When the poor wretch crawled to my 
town I prepared him for death with sacred rites, 
which the violent pain of the swelled wound, 
and the cries extorted by it from the wounded 
man seemed to presage. I had only a few drops 
of brandy remaining : these, with the root of the 
nard, I applied to the wound. Afterwards, as 
the extreme pain indicated that the poison was 
not yet expelled from his body, I saw him re- 
cover in three days by the use of the root with 
wine, which I substituted for brandy. 

No one will deny that tobacco leaves possess 
much virtue against the bites of serpents^.' A 
Guarany was wounded in the right foot in two 
places by a snake, as he was reposing at noon 
on a journey. I was asked for medicine, and 
as no nard was at hand, and we were many 
leagues from the town, I advised the father of 
the wounded man to put a tobacco leaf into his 
mouth, and to suck both the wounds. He re- 
plied that he had already done so ; I then told 
him to burn tobacco leaves, letting the smoke 
enter the wounds, and to apply a cataplasm of 
chewed tobacco to the same ; I also desired 
the wounded man himself to chew tobacco, 

X 2 



swallow its juice, and smoke it through a reed, 
giving him likewise a vial of brandy to drink. 
The poison at length was so much repressed by 
these trifling remedies that the sick man reco- 
vered his strength sufficiently to pursue his 
journey to the town. The warmth of the 
brandy counteracts the cold of the poison, and- 
restores the heat of the stomach and of the blood. 
Father Gumilla declares that serpents will die if 
a tobacco leaf be thrust into their mouths. V/e 
learn from the same author that, in the new 
kingdom of Granada, the Americans drink gun- 
powder mixed with brandy to cure the bites of 
serpents, and that it produces the desired effect. 
The Abipones, Mocobios, and Tobas, as soon as 
they feel themselves bitten by a serpent, cover 
the wound with virgin wax, which is thought 
to absorb the poison. At another time they 
have it sucked out by their physicians. They 
sometimes scrape a crocodile's tooth,' drink the 
dust in water, and at the same time bind a 
whole crocodile's tooth very tight on to the 
open wound. Our druggist at Cordoba, wish- 
ing to try the virtue of this remedy, gave an 
equal quantity of violent poison to two dogs, 
tying a crocodile's tooth round the neck of one, 
and not round that of the other, and they say 
that, whilst the latter died in a very few hours, 
the former recovered by means of the tooth. 



The Abipones surround the neck of a dog that 
has been bitten by a serpent with ostrich fea- 
thers, and they told me that their ancestors 
looked upon that as a remedy. 

The Portugueze extol the piedra de cohra, 
which is of a grey, and sometimes of a black 
colour, and of various sizes, as the magnet of 
poisons : for in the same manner that load- 
stone attracts iron, this stone, when applied to 
a wound, absorbs all the venom. That it may 
serve again for the same purpose it is immersed 
in milk, into which the poison is discharged. 
The ancient physicians thought garlick an ex- 
cellent remedy for venomous bites. The effi- 
cacy of this plant against poisons was proved 
by an experiment of my own. A Guarany, as 
he was working in the garden, was bitten in the 
foot by a hairy spider, such as I have described, 
and imprudently neglected to mention the cir- 
cumstance. The poison beginning to operate, 
he felt his thigh swell, with pain in the stomach, 
and suspecting his danger, came to me for ad- 
vice. I ordered a little beef broth to be boiled 
with plenty of garlick, which taken by the sick 
man immediately repressed the poison, the 
swelling, and the pain. Nor am I averse to 
the prescription of Dioscorides, who thinks that 
radish juice should be drunk on these occasions. 
The ancients have advised washing the hands 

. X 3 



with the same, to keep off the attacks of ser- 
pents. For it appears, both from the authority 
of physicians and from experience, that not 
only the juice but the very smell of a radish is 
of use against serpents. Some bind a live hen, 
or pigeon, cut open, to the wound, thinking that 
the poison is absorbed by them. In place of a 
hen some substitute a kid, or the belly of a 
goat newly slain. Some wash the wounded 
part with goat's milk, and they say that a 
countryman cured a serpent wound in the foot 
by dipping it often into goat's milk. They also 
say that cheese made of this milk, when ap- 
plied to the wound, will have the same effect. 
To these old remedies America adds new ones, 
a few of which I will mention. They apply the 
unripe fruit of the anana, when bruised, to 
poisoned wounds by way of a cataplasm. The 
Indian physicians give the herb taropb, (which 
the Spaniards call contra yerba, or higuerilla, 
the little fig, because its roots have both the 
odour and the milk of the fig,) to their patient 
to eat or drink, to counteract the effects of 
poisons. The leaves of the herb mboy-caa are 
chewed, and the juice swallowed, whilst part 
of the chewed leaves are placed on the wound. 
The macangua caa is celebrated for possessing 
a virtue of the same kind. This herb is named 
from the duck macangua, which, using its wings 



as a shield, pursues and kills serpents, but if it 
be wounded in the contest eats this herb as a 
medicine. The ycipo moroti, and bejuco de Gua- 
yaquil, have the same property. The roots of 
the urucuy, jurepeba, jaborandi, &c. are highly- 
conducive to excite perspiration, by which the 
poison is expelled. I do not deny the validity 
of these remedies, but, with the leave of physi- 
cians, ancient as well as modern, I still think, 
nard root preferable to them all, for it has been 
the salvation of numbers, not only of men, but 
of beasts. As the cattle feed in the open air, 
day and night, every part of the year, they are 
not unfrequently bitten by serpents, scolopen- 
dras, and spiders. Blood dropping from the 
nostrils is the sign of a poisonous wound. 
Brandy mixed with nard root poured in time 
down their throats was of great use, but after 
the poison had diffused itself over all the mem- 
bers of animals we generally found medicine 






You might swear that Egypt, and the whole 
plague of insects with which divine vengeance 
afflicted that land, had removed into Paraguay ; 
nay, you will find many here more mischievous 
and troublesome than Egypt ever beheld. I 
have always thought common house-flies, re- 
sembling ours in external appearance, more to 
be dreaded and shunned than serpents, scor- 
pions, scolopendras, hairy spiders, &c. Do not 
imagine this to be an hyperbole : I declare it as 
my serious opinion. Swarms of these insects 
are always flying up and down. At home and 
abroad you will see yourself surrounded by 
these hungry little animals, which, though a 
hundred times repulsed, will return as often. 
They enter the ears of persons when they are 
asleep, and creeping to the interior of the head, 
lay great numbers of eggs, which breed quanti- 
ties of worms ; these insects hourly increase in 
number, and gnaw ail the flesh and moisture in 
the head, so that delirium and final death are 
the inevitable consequence, unless a remedy be 
applied. I knew a Spaniard whose whole face 

M. l ftlL i iUJ!iHU l M MR! 



together with the nostrils was consumed, the 
forepart of his head being made as hollow as a 
gourd by worms. One fly, which had crept 
into his nose whilst he slept, was the origin of 
the worms and of his misfortune. This is no 
rare occurrence. That worms are expelled by 
the application of tiger's fat you have already 
learnt from the twenty-second chapter of this 
history : but hear further. In the town of the 
Rosary, one of the Abipones swarmed with 
worms to a shocking degree ; but these insects, 
unable to endure the tiger's fat which I applied 
to them, gnawed open two outlets, and all 
burst away, leaving the sick man in perfect 
health, and ascribing his recovery to this potent 
medicine ; by the aid of which I cured a female 
captive of the Spaniards, whose head had been 
grazed by a bullet. The bloody and lacerated 
skin as usual attracted these flies, which, making 
a passage to the interior of the head, greatly 
endangered the poor woman's life, but were 
soon dislodged by the application of tiger's fat. 
We have benefited other persons, at various 
times, with the same remedy. I took care al- 
ways to have a good supply of a medicine so 
important, and in such constant request. At 
the first news of a tiger being slain I hastened 
to get its fat, which I kept melted in a little 
vessel ; for if raw, it would soon putrefy in so 



hot a climate. Though the fat of these 
animals, even when fresh, like the rest of the 
flesh, exhales a most abominable odour, yet 
when mixed in water, it is drank by the 
Abipones with the utmost avidity. In some 
of the Guarany Reductions, peach leaves are 
used to expel worms bred by flies. 

The natives of northern regions will hardly 
conceive, and natural historians scarce credit 
the breeding of such dangerous worms from 
flies ; but the Americans witness it daily, and 
deplore its fatal effects not only on themselves, 
but on cattle. When we killed a cow or a 
sheep at sun-rise, the flies have been seen 
swarming round the flesh ; soon after we have 
found it covered with a kind of whitish seed, 
and by sun-set the meat became stinking, full 
of worms, and unfit to be eaten. Those who 
wish to preserve meat uninjured, should either 
cut it into very small pieces and dry it in 
the air, or hang it up in the shade in a net, or 
wicker basket, so that it may be exposed to the 
air, without being accessible to flies. Should 
a horse's back be injured by the hardness of the 
saddle, or by long riding, the flies will swarm 
thither as if bidden to a feast, and breed innu- 
merable worms, which mangle the horse, and in 
a few days destroy him. Blood bursting from 
an ulcer is a sign that worms are within. In 



order to remedy this they tie the animal's feet 
and throw him on the gromid, then dig out the 
worms and matter with a slender stick, and fill 
up the hole of the ulcer with chewed tobacco- 
leaves, and cow-dung". This must be repeated 
for many days. If the animal can lick himself 
the cure will be surer and quicker. But as this 
method of healing is accompanied with much 
trouble and some danger, the Indians, and half 
Spaniards, who are more lazy than the Indians, 
had rather see the plain strewed with carcasses, 
than exert themselves either with their hands 
or feet. The slothfulness of the shepherds who 
take care of the estates yearly occasions the 
loss of many thousand horses, oxen, calves, 
sheep and mules in Paraguay. New born 
calves should be examined and rid of the worms, 
with which they are generally infested ; for the ^ 
flies immediately attack the navel string, and 
miserably kill them. On which account, if, out 
of ten thousand calves born yearly on your 
estate, four thousand remain alive, you have 
great reason to congratulate yourself, and re- 
turn thanks to your shepherds. 

I should not omit to mention another worm 
medicine. Szentivan advises you to give a 
drench of olive oil and water to oxen labouring 
under this disease, as it causes them to void the 
worms along with their excrement. I had for- 




merly read of this, and remembering the pre- 
scription, adopted it in America with success, 
before I was acquainted with the virtues of 
tiger's fat. I had a great mastiff dog, remark- 
able for beauty, strength, and courage, my 
faithful guard both at home and abroad, but 
somewhat quarrelsome. He provoked daily 
battles, and was constantly victorious, till one 
day when he was attacked by a number of 
hounds at once ; the wound which they made 
was infested by worms, so that, as he would 
not suffer it to be touched, we had no hopes of 
his recovery. After applying a very few drops 
of oil to the wound, I beheld the whole brood 
of worms issuing forth, and caught hold of them 
as they protruded themselves from the skin, 
with a pair of compasses. When the worms 
ceased to break out, I poured on oil again and 
again, till none remained in the hollow of the 
wound, and by this art the dog recovered in 
two days. The same oil, in a lukewarm state, 
is poured into the ears, to get away any gnat, 
flea, or fly, which may have crept into them. 
I will tell you of a false alarm I once had on 
this account. As I was dressing in the morn- 
ing, I heard a continual humming so near me, 
that 1 thought a fly must have entered my head ; 
a suspicion which gave me much anxiety. 
Every thing was tried, without success, to 



expel the fly, which still continued its deadly 
hum. At last, oil heated in a shell was poured 
into my ear by a boy, but, from being too hot, 
it caused me extreme pain. Yet still greater 
was my consternation at finding that the hum- 
ming was not discontinued. '* Come," said I 
to the boy, " put your ear close to me, and 
listen attentively to the buzzing of this wretch- 
ed insect." The boy listened for some time, 
and then said with a smile: "you need be 
under no apprehension, Father; the fly is in 
your clothes, not in your ear." Immediately 
undoing the buttons, I pulled away the coat 
from my neck, and the fly, which had been 
confined in the fold, joyfully flew away. I can- 
not express the delight I felt at finding myself 
free from this danger. It was a long time, how- 
ever, before I could forget it ; the obstinate pain 
in my ear, occasioned by the hot oil, every now 
and then reminding me of the captive fly. I 
must here mention another remedy. If ever 
you feel any insect enter your ear, you should 
make some other person syringe it well with 
cold water ; for the little insects, oppressed by 
the wet, will either come out, or perish imme- 

In certain parts of Paraguay, especially in 
the Tarumensian territory, you meet with 
another species of fly. In size and shape they 

n' M ";, * 

i':,' ":\- ,l:'--il 



differ little from our common flies, but are of a 
white colour, and have a formidable sting, 
which, when inserted into the flesh of man or 
beast, elicits a quantity of blood. I scarce ever 
remember seeing them in houses ; they chiefly 
infest the roads, where they are excessively 
troublesome to horse travellers. There is a 
great number and variety of gad-flies, in plains 
adjacent to woods, but these insects attack 
beasts only. I am not surprized at the fable of 
lo being driven mad by a gad-fly, having so 
often seen horses and mules, tractable at other 
times, tormented by gad-flies adhering to their 
skin like leeches, till they grew quite furious, 
and lost all controul over themselves, and re- 
gard for their riders. Still greater danger is 
experienced in the woods from certain large 
wasps, the sting of which perfectly infuriates 
the horses. To free themselves from these 
cruel tormentors, they often refuse to obey the 
bridle, and throw their rider, rushing onwards, 
and rolling themselves on the ground; a cir- 
cumstance which occasions many broken legs, 
and bruised heads, and much bloodshed. I, 
myself, though riding on a very gentle mule, 
should have been killed once owing to this 
circumstance, had not an Indian come to my 
assistance. These insects attack men also. 
Their sting occasions violent pain and great 



swelling. A piece of fresh turf is generally- 
applied to the wounded part, by way of remedy, 
but it never did me any good, as my cheek 
may testify. In my absence, a great number 
of wasps flew into the yard of our house, and 
settled upon a stake, forming themselves into a 
large round ball. Lest passers-by should dis- 
perse them, and they should fly into our apart- 
ment, I fired a gun into the ball of wasps. 
Terrified at the sudden report, they all flew 
away except one, which pitched upon my face, 
and inserting its sting into the flesh, caused 
it to swell dreadfully. The tumour was suc- 
ceeded by a corresponding degree of pain. On 
my complaining the next day, and mentioning 
the remedies I had used, an old Abipon said, 
" Why did you not anoint the swelling with beef 
fat. Father ? that is an old and certain remedy 
amongst us." I complied with this advice, in 
consequence of which the swelling and pain 
both ceased. Take notice that I do not mean 
suet, but the fat of the animal, which is used in 
Paraguay in the place of melted butter. How 
dangerous it is to provoke hornets, we have 
often found in travelling. A nest of these in- 
sects concealed under the leaves had perhaps 
been disturbed unintentionally by the Indians, 
who preceded me as we were walking in the 
woods ; but they did not escape with impunity. 



not a few being stung by the hornets dispersed 
in this manner. Most of them, however, rushed 
under my clothes, and would have stung me all 
over, had I not given my garment to the Indians 
to examine and shake. 

No arithmetic is sufficient to reckon the 
number of gnats that torment this country, as 
no patience is equal to enduring them. Where- 
ever you go, they afflict your ears with their 
noise, and your flesh with their stings, making 
you wish for a hundred arms to drive them 
away. During cold weather, they remain 
quietly in their lurking-holes, but when the sun 
is hot and the air tranquil, they fiy out in search 
of food, and are never more ferocious than at 
dawn or twilight. Where the grass is high, 
where bushes, pools, rivers, or marshes are near 
at hand, and where there are thick woods which 
exclude the air, there you will be plagued by 
vast numbers of serpents, and swarms of gnats. 
If you have to pass the night in such a situation 
as I have described, never dream of sleeping. 
After the fatigue of riding or walking the 
whole day, you will fruitlessly weary both 
hands at night with driving away gnats. Un- 
able to sleep, how often have I reproached the 
sun with returning too slowly ! I pitied the 
horses which, after being debilitated v^^ith toil 
and fasting, were surrounded by such a swarm 

k'V^t. .C4 



of hungry gnats, that, as they could neither take 
any rest, nor graze the herb, they stood round 
the fire to inhale the smoke, which, if rather 
sharp, will keep off those trumpeting insects. 
Gnats cannot endure the smoke of cow-dung; 
but besides that it will have the same unplea- 
sant effect upon your own nostrils, if your 
sense of smelling be not very dull indeed ; you 
will hardly meet with cow-dung in the woods, 
where there is not so much as the shadow of a 
cow, and travellers through these deserts are 
too much laden with provisions, water, and 
fuel, to be able to carry bundles of it with 
them. I was much pleased with the ingenuity 
of a Negro, who, when he slept on a journey, 
always hadathissidesomeresinousmaterialfrom 
rotten wood, which glistens at night, smokes 
gently without any unpleasant smell, and, as 
I observed, always defended him from gnats. 
Incredible is the annoyance caused by these 
insects in a long journey. We have often re- 
turned home mangled, swollen, and bloody, in 
short, so unlike ourselves, that we could hardly 
know one another. Even in the house, if you 
do not wish to pass a sleepless night, ybu 
should not suffer the door or window to remain 
open at sun-set, especially when you light a 
candle ; for they fly by swarms to any light, 
whenever they can find access to it. There is 




a species of gnats which are smaller, but more 
mischievous than the common kind; for 
though they have not the disagreeable hum of 
the others, they creep into the mouth, ears, 
and nose, and sting violently. 

The most famous gnat in Paraguay, the 
mbarigue, is of the smallest size. Its extreme 
diminutiveness renders it invisible to the 
acutest eye, yet its sting is intolerably painful. 
These insects infest the thicker woods and the 
banks of streams, and are most to be feared in 
the evening, when the air is still. Their sting 
is like the point of a weapon, with which they 
pierce the flesh, not only when it is naked, but 
when defended with a slight covering. After 
passing some time in the woods, we returned to 
the town so covered with red spots, that we 
looked like persons in the small-pox. When 
in this state, the skin cannot be safely scratched 
with the nails, or washed with cold water. 
From the repeated stings of this gnat, large 
worms are often bred, whether originating in the 
pestilent sting, the poisoned humour, or some 
seed left by the insect, or in the gnat itself, 
converted into a worm within the flesh, I cannot 
tell. That more than one worm is never bred 
in one place, I know, the proof of which you 
shall now hear. I had observed my dog howl 
every now and then, scratching himself and 



appearing very uneasy. The Indians, when 
consulted on the matter, answered that he was 
swarming with worms. Under my inspection, 
they tied the dog's mouth and feet, laid him 
on the ground, and pressing the flesh where it 
appeared swelled with both hands, squeezed 
out the worm concealed underneath. Seven- 
teen worms were thus taken from as many 
different places, all of a white colour, thicker 
than the seed of an apple, and about the length 
of a man's thumb nail. Astonished at the cir- 
cumstance, I was told by the Indians that it 
frequently happened to themselves. And, in- 
deed, all Paraguay knows that the minutest 
worms and flies have been the death of many 
persons. Father Felix Villa-Garzia, during his 
long search for the Ytatinguas in the Tarumen- 
sian woods, contracted a disorder in his eye, 
and was tormented by a fistula and the worms 
engendered therein for the rest of his life : that 
the heat of the sun, and various kinds of gnats 
were the occasion of this disorder, is well 

Y 2 





The hotter parts both of North and South Ame- 
rica breed a little worm, the daily cause of many 
groans, and not a few deaths. In appearance, 
and in its manner of skipping, it resembles the 
smallest of all possible fleas, and is hardly vi- 
sible to the keenest eye, except in a very strong 
light, but so pungent that it must be felt by 
every one that is not made of stone or iron. 
This insect has so sharp a proboscis that it 
will pierce shoes, boots, gaiters, and every kind 
of clothing. It adheres a little while to the skin, 
and then penetrates the flesh, causing an in- 
tense itching : concealed there, as under a bur- 
row, it surrounds itself with a round whitish 
little bladder, which it fills with eggs like the 
smallest nits. If this bladder remain many 
days under the skin, it increases to the size of 
a pea. This is a common sight. The longer 
the bladder adheres to the body, the more is 
the sense of pain deadened. Children are much 
the fittest to rout this enemy from his station, 
for the strong sight they possess enables 
them immediately to discover the little red 


JBif iiyii. w. juijj i m i m J 



spot which denotes the place where the worm 
has entered the flesh. The circumference of 
that spot they prick with a needle, gradually 
open the skin and flesh, and at length pluck 
out the whole bladder with the little worm 
buried amongst its nits. When this is put to a 
candle, it goes off" with a noise like gunpowder. 
But if the bladder be broken in the operation, 
the humour efl'used from thence will occasion 
further pain, and the nits, by being scattered, 
will breed fresh worms in the same place. 
That this gnat teems with poisonous matter is 
evident from the circumstance that the hollow 
from which it has been eradicated, not unfre^ 
quently inflames, swells, and, unless quickly 
remedied, becomes gangrenous. The nails of 
the feet, which they frequently attack, always 
decay and fall off*, and, to preserve life, it is 
often necessary to amputate the toes. Those 
who wish to guard against this inconvenience, 
should study cleanliness in their houses, for 
the said worms derive their origin from dust, 
excrement, and urine in a hot climate, and are 
bred in places which are seldom swept, which 
have been long uninhabited, and where the 
cold air has no access to dry the moisture. 
The stalls of oxen, horses, and mules, though 
in the open air, and without a roof, swarm with 
them. In the southern parts of Paraguay^ 

y 3 

•■' '''I 

M.'r i 



where the air is not so hot, this noxious insect 
is unknown ; indeed it is seen no where but in 
the territories of Buenos- Ayres, and Cordoba 
of the Tucumans. After passing six years in 
Paraguay, I was only acquainted with it by 
name, and it was not till my removal to the 
colony of St. Ferdinand, that I began to see, to 
suffer and to execrate this pest. Persons who 
live in a place infested by these insects, should 
have their feet daily examined; for however 
troublesome this inspection may be, much 
greater inconvenience will be incurred by the 
neglect of it. At one sitting a boy will often 
take out twenty or more worms, and when your 
fingers and nails are almost all filled with holes, 
and the soles of your feet so lacerated as to 
prevent you from walking a step without diffi- 
culty, you will yourself deplore your neglect 
and procrastination. I have known many per- 
sons confined to their beds for weeks, and 
others entirely deprived of the use of their feet 
on this account. Though these worms chiefly 
attack the feet, yet they sometimes, with still 
greater danger, creep to the other parts of the 
body, and make their nest in the arm or knee. 
Dogs, from their always lying on the ground, 
are most troubled with these insects ; but they 
dexterously remove them from their flesh with 
their tongues, and heal the wound by licking it. 



Sows, tame monkeys, cats, goats, and sheep, are 
dreadfully tormented by them; but horses, asses, 
mules, and oxen, are protected against the com- 
mon enemy by the hardness of their hoofs. The 
Americans should take care to fill up the hollow 
left by the bladder with tobacco-powder, ashes, 
or soap, otherwise the wound made by the 
needle, and infected with the poison of the 
insect, will become ulcerous, conceive matter, 
and, on occasion of inflammation, or violent 
motion of the feet, will end in a gangrene, or 
St. Anthony's fire. Hen's fat and a cabbage 
leaf applied to the feet, to allay the inflamma- 
tion, have often been found of service. They 
write that the Brazilians, to keep ofif these 
worms, anoint their feet with an oil expressed 
from the unripe acorns of the acaju. Sailors 
daub themselves with pitch for the same pur- 
pose. All of us, in the fear of these and other 
insects, wore sheepskin leggings, but we found 
them weak and inefficient defences.. 

The common fleas of Europe, diffused like 
aether throughout every part of the air, are not 
only bred in Paraguay, but domineer most in- 
solently here, as in their native soil. It is a 
remarkable circumstance that the plain itself, 
which is covered with grass, swarms with fleas. 
Persons sailing on the Paraguay, when they 
leave the vessel to pass the night or noon on 



the shore, though they lie on a green turf, where 
no man or dog ever trod, will return to the ship 
blackened with fleas. If this occurs in the 
green plain, what must we expect in the dry- 
floors of an apartment, covered neither with 
brick, stone, nor board ? In apartments of this 
kind have I dwelt seven years amongst the 
Abipones, during which time I had to contend 
with countless swarms of fleas. Do you en- 
quire the remedy for fleas in America ? There 
is but one, namely, patience. Columella, Kir- 
cher, and others, are indeed of opinion that 
these insects are not only driven away but de- 
stroyed by a decoction of odoriferous herbs 
scattered on the floor ; and the Guaranies do 
certainly boil for this purpose a strong- scent- 
ed herb, sprinkling the chamber with the 
water when boiling hot, and sweeping it once 
or twice. But if the fleas are destroyed by 
this means, I attribute it, not to the strong 
smell of the herbs, but to the water in which 
they are boiled, and to the mops by which 
they are swept away. Let the houses be 
cleared of dust and dogs, and rendered per- 
vious to frequent winds ; these are the best pre- 
cautions against the smaller insects. Lice are 
never to be met with amongst the Abipones, 
except in the hair. The Spanish colonies 
abound in bugs, but I never beheld one in the 

^^^^m^^^feAiy*^-<^ 1 1 ~ja^^ 



towns of the Indians. Flying bugs, called bin" 
chiiccas, are common in Cordoba, and other 
parts of Tucuman. By day they lurk in the 
chinks of roofs and chests, but fly out at night 
and make bloody war upon sleepers. They 
affect the part upon which they fasten with an 
intolerable heat, seeming rather to burn than 
bite the body. The red spots caused by the 
pain appear as if they had been raised by a 
caustic. Fatigued with fifteen days hard riding, 
through a continuous desert, and amid unceas- 
ing showers, I reached the town of Salabina, 
where repose was not only desirable, but 
almost indispensable for me ; yet the whole 
night passed away without my being able to 
obtain a wink of sound sleep. I felt all my 
limbs pricked and heated, but was unable to 
discover the cause of this unusual pain. When 
day-light appeared, all who saw me covered 
with red spots pitied my misfortune, and as- 
sured me that the flying bugs were the cause of 
it. In another journey I passed the night in 
company with a noble priest, who, after we 
had partaken of a light supper, set out with 
me and his domestics to sleep in a neighbouring 
field. In that part of the country this is both 
customary and necessary, for in hot nights the 
houses swarm with bugs to such a degree that 
it is impossible to get any sleep in them. 



Amongst pernicious insects no inconsiderable 
place should be assigned to the garrapata, 
which is about the size of a lentil, and in form 
resembles a land tortoise, except that it is more 
spherical, wearing on its back a mail like that 
animal. It is of a dark tawny colour, partly 
variegated, has a flat body, eight little feet, 
and a prominent head or proboscis, which it 
inserts into the skin, fastening, at the same 
time, the hooks of its feet into it, and whilst it 
sucks blood from every part of the body, creates 
an itching and inflammation, followed by swell- 
ing and matter, which often lasts four days or 
more, while the ulcer will hardly heal within a 
fortnight. When the insect has fixed its head 
deep into the flesh, it is very difficult to pull it 
out entire; and if it remain sticking in the 
flesh you will be in a bad condition ; for the 
venom will not be got rid of till matter has 
flowed for a long time from that itching ulcer. 
The plains and woods are filled with this insect, 
so hostile both to man and beast. Where you 
see rotten leaves, or reeds, there you will find 
swarms of this little animal. When we tra- 
velled in the woods to discover the hordes of 
the savages, we disregarded tigers, serpents, 
and caruguas, in comparison with these noxious 
insects : it was our constant complaint that we 
had not eyes enough to avoid them, nor hands 

[fs e sim±imA. Lki,- ■4 e !i,iwuaMBfc., . 



sufficient to drive them away. The Spaniards 
employed in seeking the herb of Paraguay, 
when they daily return to their hut, lay down 
the bundles of boughs with which they are 
laden, and hasten to the next lake or river to 
bathe, where, having stripped themselves naked, 
they examine one another's bodies, and pluck 
out the garrapatas sticking in their flesh ; un- 
less this precaution were adopted, they would 
be killed in a few days with the superabundance 
of matter, and of ulcers. Goats, does, mon- 
keys, tamanduas, dogs, and every wild animal 
that inhabits the plains or woods, all swarm with 
these insects. The lesser garrapatas are much 
more mischievous than the larger ones. 

There are many species and incredible num- 
bers both of creeping and flying ants in Para- 
guay. The worst and most stinging kind are 
the least in size, and of a red colour. They 
carry off sugar, honey, and every thing sweet, 
so that you have need of much ingenuity to de- 
fend provision of this kind from them. From 
eating sweet things they increase their bile, and 
acquire a subtle venom. As soon as they get 
upon the skin, they create a pustule, which lasts 
many days, and causes severe pain. To this 
very small species of ants, I subjoin the largest 
I had an opportunity of seeing, which are for- 
midable on account of their undermining build- 

i' 't 



ings. They make burrows with infinite labour, 
under churches and houses, digging deep si- 
nuous meanders in the earth, and exerting their 
utmost strength to throw out the loosened sods. 
Having got wings they fly off in all directions, 
on the approach of heavy showers, with the same 
ill fortune as Icarus, but with this difference, 
that he perished in the sea, they on the ground, 
to which they fall when their wings are wetted 
by the rain. Moreover those holes in the earth, 
by which the ants used first to pass, admit the 
rain water, which inundates the caves of the 
ants, and undermines the building, causing the 
wooden beams that uphold the wall and roof, 
first to give way, and unless immediately sup- 
ported, to fall along with the house. This is a 
common spectacle in Paraguay. The whole 
hill on which St. Joachim was built was covered 
with ant-hills, and full of subterranean cavi- 
ties. Our house, and the one adjoining, suf- 
fered much from these insects. The chief altar 
was rendered useless for many days : for, it 
being rainy weather, the larking ants flew in 
swarms from their caves, and not being able to 
support a long flight, fell upon the priest, the 
altar, and sacred utensils, defiling every thing. 
Ten outlets by which they broke from their 
caves being closed up, next day they opened 
twenty more. One evening there arose a vio- 

i f Hiij i i y fc ' 

lwk'li<U;L » -- ! lltt'tfftg. ! ^i»iilUaBL 'i l» ! ^W.^» Bfe. 



lent storm, with horrible thunder and lightning. 
A heavy shower seemed to have converted our 
court-yard into a sloping lake, the wall itself 
withstanding the course of the waters. My 
companion betook himself to my apartment. 
Mean time an Indian, the churchwarden, ar- 
rives, announcing that the floor of the church 
was beginning to gape, and the wall to open 
and be inclined. I snatched up a lamp and 
ran to the place, but had hardly quitted the 
threshold of my door, when I perceived a gap 
in the earth ; and before I was aware of any 
danger, sunk up to the shoulders in a pit, in the 
very place of the chief altar, but scrambled out 
of it by the help of the churchwarden, as quickly 
as I had got in, for under that altar the ants 
seemed to have made their metropolis : the 
cavern was many feet long and wide, so that it 
had the appearance of a wine-cellar. As often 
as earth was thrown in by the Indians to fill it, 
so often was it dug out by the ants. In this 
universal trepidation, all the Indians were called 
to prop the gaping wall of the church with raf- 
ters and planks. The greatness of the danger 
rendered it impossible to remain quiet, what- 
ever arts were adopted. That same night I re- 
moved from my apartment, which was joined to 
the church with the same beams and rafters in 



such a manner; that if one fell, the other could 
not avoid being- involved in the ruin. I have 
read, that in Guayana, rocks and mountains 
have been undermined, walls thrown down, and 
people turned out of their habitations by ants, 
which I can easily believe, having myself wit- 
nessed similar, or even more incredible events. 
In Paraguay I was made thoroughly ac- 
quainted with the powers of ants. They are 
weak, and, compared with many other insects, 
diminutive, but numbers, labour, and unanimity 
render them formidable, and endow them with 
strength superior to their size. In the plains, es- 
pecially those near the Paraguay, I have seen 
ant-hills, like stone pyramids, three or more ells 
high, with a broad base, and composed of a solid 
material as hard as stone : these are the store- 
houses and castles of the ants, from the summits 
of which they discern sudden inundations, and 
safely behold the floating carcasses of less in- 
dustrious animals. Elsewhere I have seen an 
immense plain, so covered with low ant-hills that 
the horse could not move a step without stumb- 
Img. In the plains you may often observe a 
broad path, through which you would swear the 
legions of Xerxes might have passed. The Spa- 
niards hollow out these pyramidal heaps, and 
use them for ovens, or reduce them to a powder. 



wliicli, mixed with water, serves admirably to 
floor houses. Pavements of this kind resemble 
stone in appearance and hardness, and are said 
to prevent the breeding of fleas, and other in- 
sects. But hear what mischief ants commit 
within doors. They flock in a long and almost 
endless company to the sacks of wheat, and in 
a journey uninterrupted by day or night, (if 
there be a moon,) carry ofl", by degrees, some 
bushels. They will entirely strip fruit trees of 
their leaves, unless you twist a cow's tail round 
the trunk to hinder their ascent, and eat away 
the crops so completely that you would think 
they had been cut with a sickle. Moreover, 
ants of various kinds are extremely destructive 
both to vineyards and gardens, devouring vege- 
tables and pulse to the very root. Set a young 
plant in the ground and the next day you will 
seek it in vain. They refrain from pepper, on 
account of its pungency. If you leave meat, 
either dressed or raw, in your apartment, you 
will soon find it blackened with swarms of ants. 
They devour all sorts of trash, the very car- 
casses of beetles, toads, and snakes. On return- 
ing to my apartment, I found a little bird which 
I kept in a cage devoured by ants. Nor do 
they abstain from the bodies of sleeping per- 
sons. In the dead of the night an army of ants 
will issue from the wall or pavement, get upon 



the bed, and unless you' instantly make your 
escape, sting you all over. This happened so 
frequently in the Guarany colonies, that we were 
obliged to burn a candle at night : for lighted 
sheets of paper thrown upon the swarm, are the 
only means of driving them away. The Portu- 
gueze have an old saying, that the ants are 
queens of Brazil. Certainly we have found 
them the sovereigns of Paraguay. There may 
be said to be more trouble in conquering these 
insects, than all the savages put together ; for 
every contrivance hitherto devised serves only 
to put them to flight, not banish them effec- 
tually. Should you hire workmen at a great 
expense to throw fire upon the caves of the 
ants, and destroy their eggs, fresh ones will be 
found next day in other parts of the garden. 
If swine's dung, chalk, urine, or wild marjoram 
be put into their cave, they will depart, but only 
to dig themselves fresh habitations in the neigh- 
bourhood. Sulphur is superior to other reme- 
dies, and the way in which it is to be used we 
learnt from the Portugueze. You seek out 
the principal lurking-place of the ants, lay a 
chafing dish of lighted coals in the largest open- 
ing by which they enter the earth, blow them 
into a flame, and add sulphur to make a smoke. 
You carefully stop up the other openings, through 
which you perceive the smoke issue, with mud, 

atj ff feif, 

i*^ *»!/•.-*. 

ii>iL.. '' ^>gL*UBi ii i i i. .^. 



that the sulphureous smoke may not be per- 
mitted to escape. You then light all the sul- 
phur you have at hand, by means of bellows, 
and the smoke filling the whole cave will suffo- 
cate all the ants that lurk there. This has been 
successfully practised by many persons in . Pa- 
raguay. But if sulphur be wanting in these so- 
litudes, or patience to use it, then grapes and 
the productions of the trees and plains must fail 
also. The ants will devastate every thing, and 
elude all the arts of the cultivator, unless de- 
stroyed by the smoke of sulphur. 

It were to wrong the Paraguayrian ants, if, 
after having so minutely described all the mis- 
chief they commit, I were to be silent on their 
benefits. Some of the larger sort have a little 
ball in the hind part of their bodies full of very 
white fat, which, when collected, and melted 
like butter, is eaten with pleasure both by In- 
dians and Spaniards. Other very small ants, 
in those shrubs which bear the quabyra-miri, 
deposit a wax naturally white, and consisting of 
small particles, which is used to make candles 
for the use of the altar, and when lighted ex- 
hales an odour sweeter than frankincense, but 
quickly melts, and though double the price of 
any other wax is sooner consumed. There are 
also ants that convey to their caves particles of 
fragrant rosin, which serve for frankincense. In 

VOL. II. z 




certain parts of Asia small particles of gold are 
collected by the ants, from mountains which 
produce that metal. The inhabitants, in order 
to get possession of the gold, attack their caves, 
the repositories of this treasure, especially in 
the heat of the sun; but the ants stoutly de- 
fending their riches, they often return empty- 
handed, and sometimes are obliged to make a 
precipitate retreat. I have long wished that 
those Europeans who have to feed larks and 
nightingales would come to this country, and 
load their ships with ant-eggs : they would cer- 
tainly return with great profit, and at the same 
time do a signal service to America. 

There are also incredible numbers of very 
large toads, especially in deserted, or but lately 
inhabited places. In the town of Concepcion, 
removed to the banks of the Salado, about 
evening all the streets were so covered with 
toads, that they were rendered as slippery as 
ice. They filled the chapel, our house, every 
place. They not unfrequently fell from the roof 
on to the floor, bed, or table. They could creep 
along the wall, and ascend and descend like 
flies. When the kitchen fire is kindled on the 
ground toads sometimes creep into the pans and 
kettles. Once, as I was pouring boiling water 
from a brass vessel into a gourd, to mix with 
the herb of Paraguay, 1 perceived that the 

^Yj'^kXLjLU t aiit'am^iu 



water was bad, and of a black colour; and, on 
inspecting the vessel, found a toad boiled with 
the water, which had given it that dark hue, 
and was so swelled that it entirely choked up 
the mouth of the vessel. In the colony of the 
Rosary, which I founded on the banks of a 
lake, there was the same abundance of toads. 
Whilst I performed divine service the chapel 
swarmed with them, and though many were 
slain every hour of the day, for two years, their 
numbers seemed rather to increase than dimi- 
nish. A species of toad^ called by the Spani- 
ards escuerzos, and much larger than European 
ones, are not only troublesome, but, when pro- 
voked, dangerous: for by way of revenge they 
squirt their urine at those by whom they are 
offended, and if the least drop of this liquid en- 
ter the eye it will immediately produce blind- 
ness. It is moreover indubitable that not only 
their urine, but their saliva, blood, and gall 
possess a poisonous property. We learn from 
creditable authors that the Brazilian savages 
roast toads, and then reduce them to a powder, 
which they infuse into the meat or drink of 
their enemies to cause their death; for it occa- 
sions a dryness and inflammation of the throat, 
together with vomiting, hiccups, sudden faint- 
ing, delirium, severe pains in the joints and 
stomach, and sometimes dysentery. Persons 

h\v \, 



afflicted in this manner, if the force of the poi- 
son admit of medicine, should immediately have 
recourse to purging and vomiting, with repeated 
walking, or the bath, to produce perspiration. 
For the same purpose the sick man is some- 
times put into a tolerably hot oven, or placed 
inside a beast that has been newly slain. Vari- 
ous herbs and roots are also made use of to dis- 
sipate the poison, the chief of which is one 
called nhambi. If the juice of this herb be 
thrown on the back or head of the toad, after 
those parts have been rubbed a little on the 
ground, it will instantly kill the pestilent ani- 
mal. This also is effected by means of tobacco. 
American toads are of a cinereous or light red 
colour, sometimes variegated, covered with 
warts, and bristly like a hedgehog. I have read 
that certain savages feed on a species of toad, 
but never witnessed it myself. European phy- 
sicians say that toads, properly prepared by 
druggists, are useful as diuretics in dropsy, 
plague, and fevers, and they advise a bruised 
toad to be applied to the back, about the kid- 
neys, by way of a cataplasm, in cases of dropsy. 
The oil of toads is useful for curing warts, ac- 
cording to Woytz. River crabs, hartshorn, the 
flowers of the vine, and other things, are recom- 
mended by the same authors as remedies for 
the poison of toads. There is also a great va- 

■.ui#aii!<!"iJ ' J ' gUJ. r ■ » . A. ' Ai. ' i^Hi. 

Zj^^im-C- -' .^S-,,^ 



riety and abundance of frogs, which croak away 
in the mud, equally annoying to the inha- 
bitants and to travellers. In other respects they 
are neither useful nor prejudicial, though in Eu- 
rope they are employed both as medicine and 
food ; but there is nothing to which you would 
not sooner persuade an American than to eat 
frogs, or make any other use of them. 

Leeches are always to be found in pools sup- 
plied solely with rain water; but I never saw 
any so large as ours. In the town of the llosary, 
after a heavy shower the streets seemed full 
of leeches, and the Abipones, who always go 
barefoot, complained that they clung to their 
feet wherever they went; but in the space of 
an hour these troublesome guests all disap- 
peared, having betaken themselves, most proba- 
bly, to the adjoining lake. Of bats I have 
spoken in a former part of my history. 

Paraguay may be called the Paradise of mice 
and dormice. From the number of oxen daily 
slain, such abundance of offal is every where to 
be had, that dormice, which in our country can 
hardly find anything to eat, here feast day and 
night, which, of course, must wonderfully in- 
crease their numbers. At Buenos-Ayres, to my 
astonishment, I beheld dormice, larger than our 
squirrels, issue by crowds out of the old walls 
into the court, about sun-set. At Cordoba in 




Tucuman, an ox, stripped of its hide and en- 
trails, but entire in every other respect, was 
suspended from a beam in the clerk's office. 
The lay-brothers, on entering the office, beheld 
the ox entirely covered with dormice, and drew 
near to see how much they had devoured in the 
night. On handling the flesh, they found it com- 
phtely hollowed, and three hundred dormice 
lurking within. Upon hearing this, I conceived 
such a disgust of meat gnawed by these ani- 
mals, that for tvv^o days I carefully avoided the 
eating-room, and contented myself with bread 
alone. The fruit of my abstinence was, that 
the meat was thenceforward kept cleaner, and 
in a more appropriate place. An innumerable 
host of dormice not unfrequently came throng- 
ing from the southern parts of Buenos- Ayres, 
filled the fields, garners, and houses of Tucu- 
man, and laid waste every thing. They swam 
across rivers without fear. They left the im- 
inense tract of plain country through which 
they took their way beaten and pressed as if 
by Y/aggons. The Paraguayrian countrymen, 
frightened by their multitudes, chose rather to 
quit their huts, which were exposed on all sides, 
than take up arms against the foe. Nor should 
you imagine the Paraguayrian dormice are fond 
of nothing but beef; they delight in human 
flesh, for they frequently bite you when you are 



sound asleep, and that with no sluggish tooth. 
Moreover, there is no kind of trash which they 
will not steal and hide in their store-houses, to 
serve either for food or bed. They tear the 
silken markers out of the prayer-books to make 
their nests. They run off with aprons, ban- 
dages, stockings, linen and woollen articles 
of every kind, carrying them to their holes for 
bed-clothes and cushions. These troublesome 
pilferers not only commit daily thefts upon the 
inhabitants, but frequently set fire to the houses 
themselves. For they carry away burning tal- 
low candles in their mouths, and in hastening 
to their caves, often set fire to the cottages of 
the Spanish peasants. They occasioned us 
much trouble in the colony of the Rosary. A 
light was forced to be kept up at night there on 
several accounts. When tallow was not to be 
had, I used oil expressed from cows' feet for 
this purpose. Almost every night the dormice 
snatched up the iron plate with the burning 
wick, in order to suck the oil when it cooled. 
To restrain their audacity, it was found neces- 
sary to bind the plate of the match to the lamp 
with a little brass chain, a weight of iron being 

A most frequent, and almost annual calamity 
to Paraguay are the locusts, which are horrible 
to the sight and of immensevsize, being longer 

z 4 

■i ;, 



than a man's middle finger. When an infinite 
swarm of them approaches, a terrible darkness 
breaks from the farthest horizon, and you would 
swear that a black cloud pregnant with rain, 
wind, and lightning was drawing nigh. My 
Abipones, on such occasions, often snatched up 
arms, and placed themselves in battle array; for 
the locusts, beheld from a distance, looked like 
a cloud of dust stirred up by a troop of hostile 
savages. Wherever the locusts settle, they de- 
prive the fields of their productions, the trees 
of their leaves, the plain of grass, and men 
and cattle of food; while the numerous offspring 
which they leave behind continue the devasta- 
tion to another year, and create further misery. 
The army of locusts is prevented from flying to 
the ground, and feeding in the fields sowed with 
various kinds of grain, by the sound of drums, 
the shouting of voices, the firing of guns, and 
continual rustling of boughs in the air; if these 
methods fail of driving them away, all the men 
in the Guarany towns are employed in collect^ 
ing and killing them. In one day we have often 
with pleasure beheld many bushels full of these 
insects, and have condemned them either to the 
fire or the water. The Abipones had rather 
eat locusts than drown or burn them; on which 
account, as they are flying, they knock them 
down to the ground with long sticks, roast 



them at the fire on the same, or on spits, and 
devour them with as much avidity as we do 
partridges or beccaficos, rejecting however the 
males. It has been my intention to treat here 
of all the noxious insects that occasion death, 
disease, or damage : but what a field should I 
have, were I also to describe the harmless ones 
both of the land and water. Good Heavens ! 
what an abundance is there of flies, worms, 
bees, hornets, drones, and grasshoppers ! What 
an immense diversity of glow-worms, shining 
here and there by night like stars ! Some, which 
are about the size of a grass-worm, by moving 
their wings, others from their eyes alone, emit 
a light strong enough for one to read by. Some 
glow only behind, others in every part of their 
bodies. Wood, reeds, leaves, and roots of 
plants, when putrefied, scatter at night, parti- 
cularly in moist places, a green, red, yellow, or 
blue radiance, resembling diamonds, emeralds, 
chrysolites, rubies, &c. This was a nightly 
spectacle to us in the woods between the rivers 
Acaray and Monday. I carried some rubbish 
which I had observed to glitter in this manner, 
to my town, where it shone as long as it conti- 
nued moist; when wetted, it regained its for- 
mer splendour, which, however, ceased at last, 
in spite of fresh supplies of water. I never 
perceived phosphoric lights of thi^ nature in 



any other part of Paraguay. Innumerable but- 
terflies, of a beautiful variety of colours, adorn 
the sides of the rivers and woods, as flowers the 
meadows ; but of these and other insects, many 
and accurate accounts have been already written, 
which are now in the hands of all. We must re- 
turn to the Abipones, more destructive to Para- 
guay than any insect, who, though looked upon 
by the Spaniards in the light of robbers and mur- 
derers, do nevertheless profess themselves war- 
riors and heroes; whether justly or no, I leave 
to the arbitration of my readers, to whom I 
shall proceed to describe their military disci- 
pline and method of warfare. 





I AM at a loss in what colours to paint the 
military dispositions of the Abipones ; no word 
corresponds to the idea which long acquaintance 
with these savages has impressed on my mind. 
That the Abipones are warlike, prompt, and 
active, none even of the Spaniards ever doubted, 
but I should hesitate to call them valiant and 
intrepid. Cicero himself distinguishes an ac- 
tive from a brave man, in these words, 2. Phi- 
lipp. Ut cogJiosceret te, si minus fortem, attamen 
strenuum. It is my purpose to write the his- 
tory not the panegyric of the Abipones : I must 
therefore be sincere, and declare my real opi- 
nion, whatever it be. 

Military fame is the principal object of the am- 
bition of the Abipones. Their whole souls are 
bent upon arms. They can manage a spear, bow, 
and every kind of weapon with great dexterity, 
and ride on horseback with peculiar swiftness. 
No people with greater fortitude endures the 
hardships of war, the inclemencies of the sky, 
want of food, and the fatigues of travelling. 
They fearlessly swim across rivers formidable to 




sailors and ships. They look upon their wounds 
without a groan, and with as much indifference 
as they would upon those of another person. 
They are acquainted with all those arts which 
every European soldier admires, but which so 
very few practise. This alone is unknown to 
the Abipones, to despise death, and gain glory 
by encountering danger. They boast of martial 
souls, but are too unwilling to resign their lives. 
They are active, but can by no means be called 
brave, for a brave man would remain unterrified 
were the globe itself to fall in ruins, and would 
choose either to conquer or die. The Abipones 
always desire to conquer, but are never willing 
to die. They will curse a victory obtained at 
the expense of one of their countrymen's lives. 
They abhor triumphal hymns if mingled with 
funeral lamentations, and would reject a victory 
accompanied by the sighs of one mourning 
widow or orphan. - 

Certainly no one can accuse the Abipones of 
rashness in venturing their lives. Their chief 
adorations are paid to the goddess Security, the 
arbitress of their battles, without whose appro- 
ving sanction they will never risk an engage- 
ment. They carefully avoid a contest of un- 
certain issue. They always threaten others, 
always fear for themselves, and trust nothing 
to chance. Before they undertake a warlike 



expedition, they carefully consider the nature 
of the place, the numbers of their enemies, and 
the opportunity of the time. Any danger, or 
the least suspicion of it, will strike the spear 
from their hands, and extinguish all their 
ardour. x4gis. King of Sparta, boasted that 
his soldiers, in the heat of war, did not enquire 
the number and strength of their antagonists, 
but where they were, that they might attack 
and put them to flight. The Abipones are 
never hurried into a combat with such blind 
impetuosity as this. They proceed cautiously, 
nor do the trumpets sound till all things have 
been diligently examined. When Assured of 
their safety, they rush on like thunder, imi- 
tating now the cunning of Hannibal, now the 
delays of Fabius. They know that the daring 
are favoured by fortune, but not unless they 
exercise a sagacious foresight with regard to 
dangers. As persons about to cross a threaten- 
ing river, try the ford that they may not be 
carried away by the current; so they never 
approach their enemies till after mature deli- 
beration, that they may secure an unimperilled 
victory. The timidity of the Americans gives 
the name of rashness to what Europeans call 
courage. They think long and often upon 
what is to be done once. They never strike a 
blow which they have not previously contem- 



plated, and then it is with a hand trembling 
at every noise. They seldom attack openly, 
but do it in general imawares. They dare 
little against the bold who front assailants, 
and are accustomed to keep strict watch. 
They never fear less than when they per- 
ceive themselves the objects of fear. Craft, 
and the swiftness of their horses, more than 
strength, were what gave them the power to 
commit so many slaughters. Though you 
may object to their cowardice, yet that method 
of warfare is surely admirable, and agreeable 
to military tactics, which enabled them, with 
no loss, or a very trifling one of their own 
soldiers, to return hom.e victorious, laden with 
the heads of the Spaniards, and triumphantly 
displaying crowds of captives, cattle, and other 
spoils taken from the enemy. Hcvc ars, says 
Vegetius, dimicaturis est necessaria, per quam 
v'ltam retineant, et victoriam consequantur . For 
this purpose, heroes themselves have used a 
sword, and a shield, with the one to offend the 
enemy, with the other to defend themselves. 
Cunning, agility, and the swiftness of their 
horses, were a shield, nay, better than any 
shield, to the Abipones. If they see one or 
two of their fellow-soldiers fall, they imme- 
diately fly. When straitened, and deprived ol 
all means of escape, fear is converted into rage. 

.1 If; 






No man can obtain celebrity amongst the Abi- 
pones except by warlike prowess. Hence to 
have their arms properly made, in good order, 
and ready when needed, is their chief care. To 
defend themselves, and offend their enemies, 
they principally make use of the bow and 
spear. Their native soil produces a kind of wood 
not to be met with in any other part of Para- 
guay, called 7ieterge, which is of a red colour 
while fresh, and as hard as steel. They cleave 
this tree, cut out an oblong piece of wood, and 
shape it with a knife or a sharp stone. You 
would think it had been made by a turner. 
To straighten it they heat it every now and 
then by fire, and twirl it about between two 
logs of wood. By this method the Abipones 
make spears scarce smaller than the Macedo- 
nian pikes ; for they are more than five or six 
ells in length, pointed at both ends, that if 
one end gets blunt, the other may still be of 
service, and also for the convenience of sticking 
the spear into the ground when they pass the 
night in the plain. Formerly when they w^ere 

J. Tr^A » fc.^: 

, -*-. 



unacquainted with the very name of iron, they 
fought with wooden spears, fixing a cow's or 
stag's horn to the end of them by way of a 
point. But when the Abipones obtained iron 
points from the Spaniards, they dexterously 
inserted them into their spears> and used them 
to slaughter those from whom they had re- 
ceived them. When going to fight they grease 
the point of the spear with tallow, that it may 
enter more readily and deeper into the flesh. 
We have sometimes seen spears four palms 
deep in hostile blood, with such force had the 
Abipones driven them into the sides of the sa- 
vages who attacked our colony. As their tents 
and huts are in general rather low, they fix their 
spears at the threshold of the door to have 
them always in readiness. By the number of 
spears you may know the number of warriors 
which the horde contains. As European gene- 
rals, to conceal the scanty number of their 
forces, and to supply the want of warlike in- 
struments, have sometimes placed machines of 
painted wood, on mounds, to frighten their 
more numerous adversary ; we, in like manner, 
availing ourselves of the same species of cun- 
ning, fixed spears hastily made of reeds or 
wood, in the houses of the absent Abipones; 
deluded by which the enemies' scouts reported 
to their countrymen that the town was full of 


A A 






■ i' 



defenders. The Abipones are commendable 
not only for their skill in making their weapons, 
but also for their assiduity, in cleaning and 
polishing them. The points of their spears al- 
ways shine like silver. I was often ashamed 
for the Spaniards, when I saw them furnished 
with mean, dirty, and incommodious arms, in 
the presence of the Abipones, who ridiculed 
their poverty and laziness. Most of them make 
use of a reed, a rude stake, a knotty club, the 
bough of a tree, or a twisted piece of wood, with 
a broken sword or knife tied to the end of it. 
The richer sort have guns, but generally bad 
ones, fitter to terrify than to slay the enemy ; 
and moreover, you will find few able to handle 
them properly. Remember that 1 am speaking 
of the Spanish husbandmen who are ordered to 
fight against the savages ; for you never see 
the regular troops without the cities of Buenos- 
Ayres and Monte-Video. 

Bows as well as spears are made of the 
neterge. They are equal to a man's stature in 
length. When unbent, they are like a very 
straight stick, not being curved like the bows 
of the Turks and Tartars. The string of the 
bow is generally made of the entrails of foxes, 
or of very strong threads supplied by a species 
of palm. When about to shoot off their arrows, 
that they may be able to bend the cord forcibly 
without hurting their hands, they wear a kind 




of wooden gauntlet. The quiver is made of 
rushes, and adorned with woollen threads of 
various colours. The arrows, which are an ell 
and a palm in length, consist of a reed, to which 
a sharp point of bone, very hard wood, or iron 
is prefixed. Wooden points are more formi- 
dable than iron ones, but those of bone, which 
are made of a fox's leg, are the most to be 
dreaded of all ; for they break in being ex- 
tracted, and the part remaining in the body 
causes a swelling, and a very virulent ulcer, 
which leaves the wounded person no rest. Any 
wood, from being imbued with a kind of native 
poison, causes more pain and tumour than iron. 
The Abipones never poison their arrows, as is 
usual amongst many other people of Ame- 
rica. The Chiquitos are dreaded by the 
neighbouring savages on this account, that if 
an arrow of theirs wound the outermost skin, 
and bring the least drop of blood, all the limbs 
will swell, and in the course of a few hours 
death will ensue. The deadly poison in which 
they dip their arrows, the Chiquitos, alone know 
how to prepare from the bark of an unknown 
tree, and to this day they reserve to themselves 
the knowledge of the cruel mystery. In hunt- 
ing too they kill wild animals with arrows 
dipped in the same poison, and cutting out the 
wounded part of the body, eat them with safety, 

A A 2 



like the Guaranies, who fear not to feed on oxen 
stung to death by serpents j rejecting that part 
only which has been infected by the animal's 
tooth. Father Gumilla relates that the savages 
of the Orinoco prepare a most fatal poison to 
dip their arrows in. 

The feathers which expedite the flight of the 
arrows are taken from the wings of crows, so 
that when the Abipones went out to shoot these 
birds we guessed that war was at hand. Each 
feather is tied on both sides, to the extremity oi 
the reed, by a fibre of very slender thread. The 
Vilelas excite the admiration of all Paraguay by 
their skill in archery. They dexterously fasten 
the feathers to the arrow with a glue made from 
the bladder of the fish vagre, inserting the point 
very lightly into the reed ; an artifice which ren- 
ders their arrows extremely dangerous, because 
whilst the reed is extracted the point remains 
sticking in the flesh. The Guaranies, less curi- 
ous in these matters, apply the feathers of par- 
rots, or other birds, to their arrows. When 
more than four hundred shoot at a mark, at the 
same moment, and they go to gather them up, 
each knows his own by the colour of the 
feathers. Every nation, in short, has a peculiar 
fashion in forming bows and arrows. The 
shorter are more dangerous than the longer ones, 
inasmuch as they are more difficult to be seen 
and avoided; but the longer have the advantage 



of going to a greater distance, and striking 
with more force. It is certain that the Abi- 
pones are very skilful archers : they are accus- 
tomed to the bow from children, and even in 
infancy can shoot little birds on the wing. In 
sportive contests, when a reward was proposed 
to each of the winners, a citron placed at a con- 
siderable distance served for a mark. Consi- 
dering the number of archers, very few missed 
their aim, to the astonishment of the Spaniards 
who witnessed such dexterity. The Guaranies 
are also reckoned very expert in this art. 

The Abipones have a great variety of arrows. 
Some are longer and thicker, as being intended 
to kill larger beasts. The form of the points is 
also various. Some are plain and have a straight 
point; some are barbed either on one or both 
sides, and others armed with a double row of 
barbs. You can never extract an arrow of this 
kind from the flesh, unless you turn it about with 
both hands, by which means you will open a 
way to extricate the barbs, but with what pain ! 
When the Abipones see the remains of an 
arrow occupying any fleshy part of the body, 
as the thigh, or arm, they cut out the piece of 
flesh with the inherent particle themselves. 
The Cacique Ychoalay, in a sharp contest with 
his rival Oaherkaikin, was dangerously wounded 
with a bone arrow, which stuck in the back 

A A 3 



part of his head, and breaking in being ex- 
tracted, remained fixed there as firm as a nail. 
At our advice he visited Sta. F^, to obtain the 
aid of a surgeon, who found it necessary to 
make an incision before he could lay hold of the 
bony arrow point with his forceps. The opera- 
tion was successfully performed, but not with- 
out severe pain, which the Indian bore with the 
utmost fortitude, not allowing a single expres- 
sion of pain to escape him ; he even exhorted 
the surgeon, who, unwilling to inflict so much 
torture, was hesitating in his task, to proceed ; 
*'Doyou see me shrink?" said he: ''fear nothing, 
I beseech you ; cut, pierce, do what ever you 
like with confidence. I have long been accus- 
tomed to pain, wounded as I have so often been 
with different weapons." At length when the 
bony point was extracted, such a quantity of 
blood gushed out, you would have thought an 
artery had been opened. The Indian beheld 
this with a calm countenance, and thanked his 
deliverer in the best terms he was master of. 

Before entering a battle, they lay aside their 
finest arrows to be employed on the blow which 
they think of most importance, generally 
having one of tried virtue in readiness to de- 
fend themselves in urgent peril, or to slay some 
one whose death they particularly desire. When 
they wish not to kill, but to take alive, birds 



and Other small animals, tbey use arrows fur- 
nished with a little ball of wood or wax, instead 
of a point : with this they stun and knock down 
the animal, but do not kill it. Whenever they 
are unable to direct the weapon straight to the 
mark, on account of some intervening obstacle, 
they shoot it archwise, giving it a curved direc- 
tion, in the same manner as in besieging camps, 
balls of fire are cast from mortars. The Abi- 
pones stand in no need of these to set fire to 
houses ; for they fasten burning cotton or tow 
to the ends of their arrows, and casting them 
against roofs of wood or straw, set fire to what- 
ever they like, from ever so great a distance. 
Many towns of the Spaniards were reduced to 
ashes by this fatal artifice. In the town of the 
Rosary, I had the thatch of my house plastered 
over with thick mud to protect it from the 
flames cast by the arrows of the neighbouring 
savages. With the same view, I covered a 
wooden observatory, constructed for the pur- 
pose of watching the motions of the savages, 
with hides ; nor did the contrivance disappoint 
my hopes. 

The spear and the bow, though the chief 
arms of the Abipones, are not the only ones. 
They have a weapon composed of three stone 
balls, covered with leather, and fastened to- 
gether by as many thongs meeting in one : this 

A a4 



they whirl round, and then cast, with a sure aim, 
at men and beasts ; by which means they are 
either killed or so noosed, as to prevent them 
from moving. This formidable weapon, which 
the Spaniards call las bolas, is much used by 
the southern savages. The lower orders of 
Spaniards, and all the Indians and Negroes, 
whenever they ride out are constantly seen with 
these balls hanging at their saddle or girth ; in- 
deed they are in very general use. I have spoken 
at large in the seventh chapter, of the wooden 
club macana, which they use at home for amuse^ 
ment, and abroad for killing men and beasts. 
The sling, in the use of which the Guaranies are 
so expert, is thought little of by the Abipones ; 
amongst them it is only used by boys to knock 
down small birds with. They have a bow 
which, instead of a string, is furnished with a 
piece of cloth, three inches wide, and made of 
a material very like hemp ; stretching this with 
the hand, they shoot off small clay balls, instead 
of arrows, to kill birds and other small animals, 
That wooden tube from which little balls or 
nails, furnished with silken or linen threads to 
aid their flight, are blown bv the mouth, is un- 
known to the Abipones, but I am informed that 
it is used by certain Peruvian Indians dwelling 
amongst the Moxos and Baures. These people, 
not being provided with iron nails, put thick 



thorns imbued with a poisonous juice into a 
wooden tube, and blowing hard into it, aim them 
against wild beasts, and their enemies,, by 
which means they slay them with impunity. 

The Abipones are unacquainted with shields 
and targets, but they cover greatest part of 
their bodies with a sort of defence, made of an 
undressed anta's hide, a tiger's skin being sewed 
either in the in or outside ; it is open in the 
middle, that the head may come through, and 
extended on each side as far as the elbows and 
middle; it is impenetrable to common arrows, 
but not to spears and bullets, though it some- 
what diminishes their force. To this coat of 
mail they added a girth wider than a man's 
hand, of the dressed hide of the same animal, 
when they saw their leader Debayakaikin 
wounded in the belly with a spear. They make 
use of this armour when they have to fight with 
the other Indians. Most of them, however, ex- 
pose their bodies entirely naked to the weapons 
of their enemies, and seem the more secure, as 
they are more expeditious in avoiding the fatal 
blow. For the weight and hardness of such 
armour prevents that agility, which, in their 
method of fighting, is of such importance to 
their safety, as much as its thickness protects 
the body. When they engage with the 
Spaniards they neglect their bow and wooden 




breastplates, which would be of little service 
against leaden bullets. In a strong spear, a 
swift horse, and a crafty ambuscade, they then 
place all their hopes of victory, and seldom 
engage on foot, unless absolutely obliged. 
They had rather combat the enemy from a dis- 
tance, than close at hand, when they fear for 
their lives. They oftener kill piecemeal than 
with downright blows. Though the major part 
have either purchased swords from the Spa- 
niards, or taken them in war, they seldom make 
use of them in skirmishing. 






Their method of warfare varies according to 
the adversaries they have to deal v^ith. They 
adopt one mode of fighting against the Spaniards, 
another against savages like themselves. This, 
however, may be observed in general, that they 
are never precipitate in taking up arms against 
any one, nor ever hazard an attack unless con- 
fident of victory ; though, like European gene- 
rals, they are often deceived. Where they had 
looked for laurels, they reap deadly cypresses — 
they go out to seek wool, and return home 
shorn themselves. The fortune of war is always 
uncertain. After having determined upon a 
hostile expedition, they usually send out scouts 
to discover which way they are to go, and at 
what place begin the attack; to learn every 
particular respecting the number of their neigh- 
bours who might send supplies to their adver- 
saries, and concerning the access to houses ; 
carefully to examine the situation most con- 
venient for an ambuscade, the places by which 
they might approach undiscovered, and whither, 
if need required, they might betake themselves 



for safety, together with the pastures of cattle, 
the number of guards, and other particulars of 
that kind. And so cunningly do these emis- 
saries discharge their office, that they contrive 
to see all things, and be seen by none. 

Leaving their horses for a while, either on 
the inaccessible bank of a river, or in the 
recesses of the woods, that they may not be be- 
trayed by their means, they crawl along on 
their hands and feet, and lurking amongst 
boughs and bushes observe all things, both at 
a distance and close at hand. Concealed by 
the shades of night, they sometimes approach 
the very houses of the Spaniards, and listening, 
catch part of the conversation of the persons 
within; those even that are ignorant of the 
Spanish tongue, can at least discover, from the 
tone of the voices, whether the house contain 
more men or women. That their footsteps may 
not betray them, they fasten pieces of skin to 
their feet, by which artifice the marks of human 
tread are either disguised or destroyed. To 
obtain a view of distant objects, they frequently 
climb trees, or stand upright on their horses' 
backs. They generally send out two or three 
of these scouts, who separate at night, one 
taking one road, one another, first fixing upon 
a time and place to meet together again. That 
they may be able with the more certainty to 



keep their appointment, they imitate the voice 
of some bird or beast, as agreed upon before- 
hand, from which one may know and discover 
the other. But this artifice must be warily 
adopted ; for if at night-time they imitate the 
note of a bird which is only heard by day, the 
Spaniards know it to be uttered by the scouts 
of the savages, and by timely cautions elude 
the hostile attack. Often one companion sig- 
nifies to another that he has arrived before- 
hand by broken boughs of trees, or high grass 
knotted in various ways. None perform the 
office of spy with more success than those 
Abipones who in their childhood have been 
taken in war, and bred up by the Spaniards, 
and who have returned to their countrymen 
when grown up ; for, besides that they are ac- 
tuated by a stronger hatred to the Spaniards, 
and a keener thirst for vengeance, from their 
acquaintance with places, and with the Spa- 
nish tongue, they dwell for a time with im- 
punity in the Spanish towns, and as they use 
the same dress and language, are universally 
taken for Spaniards. Secure by this artifice, 
even in mid-day, and in the public market- 
place, they survey every thing, and enquire 
about whatever it is their interest to know; 
learn what military men are absent, or preparing 
for departure ; what waggons are laden with 



merchandise, and whither they are bound, so' 
that they are afterwards easily plundered by 
the savages in those immense deserts ; not one 
of the waggoners or guards being able to pre- 
vent the slaughter, as men of this description 
are in general but ill provided with arms, and 
still worse with courage. 

The scouts, after having finished their jour- 
ney and made an accurate report to their 
employers of all they have seen and heard, a 
council of war, and at the same time a drink- 
ing-party is appointed ; for the Abipones think 
themselves ill fitted for deliberation with dry 
lips. The Cacique, the promoter of the expe- 
dition, in the course of the drinking, delivers 
his opinion on the affair, and enquires that of 
the rest. He animates his companions to carry 
on the thing with vigour, either by the ex- 
ample of their ancestors, or by the hope of 
glory or booty. Repeated draughts inflame 
both the bodies and minds of the drinkers : for 
the meed which they make of honey, or the 
alfaroba, immediately disorders the brain, like 
the strongest wine, an effect which is power- 
fully increased by the shouts of the intoxicated, 
by singing, and the noise of drums and gourds. 
The heroic deeds of their ancestors, and former 
victories, are generally the subjects of these 
savage songs. The spectacle is as ridiculous 



as it is possible to conceive. In every one 
of the Abipones, you vs^ould behold a thunder- 
bolt of war. Each thinks himself a Hector, 
an Epaminondas, a Hannibal ; and such they 
might be believed by all who beheld their faces 
covered with bk)od-red stains to render them 
more terrific, their arms and breasts full of 
scars, and their threatening eyes, and who 
listened to their ferocious and slaughter-breath- 
ing words. But could we look into their 
breasts, we should perceive that they were 
different within from what they appeared with- 
out. We should discover a shell without a 
kernel, an ass in a lion's skin, an ignis fatuus 
under thundering words, and vain rage unsup- 
ported by strength. Though, no longer masters 
of themselves, they crawl on the ground in a 
state of intoxication, at your bidding they will 
climb to Heaven itself, they will tear away the 
hinges of the globe, and had all the human race 
but one neck, like Caligula, they would end it 
at a blow. Were they as courageous in battle, 
as vaunting in their cups, they would long since 
have extinguished the race of Spaniards in 
Paraguay. But as some one has observed, 
drunken bullies are better trumpeters than 
soldiers. They are all empty sound. Amidst 
their cups and their songs they are bold as 
lions, but in battle more cowardly than hares. 




Whenever an Abipon dies by the hand of an 
enemy, the nearest relation of the deceased 
takes upon him to avenge his death. It is his 
business to invite his countrymen and hordes- 
men, or even the inhabitants of another horde, 
to join their arms with his, to lead them against 
the enemy, and, when the attack is made, to 
go first into battle. As they lend assistance to 
friendly nations, they seek it in turn from them, 
either when they are preparing for war, or when 
they apprehend it from others whom they deem 
themselves unequal to contend with alone. 
But, as Europe so often experiences, little con- 
fidence is to be placed in auxiliary forces. 
The friendship of the Indians is notoriously 
iickle and unsteady; for, as they enter into 
alliance merely with a view to their own advan- 
tage, they will suddenly turn their backs on 
their greatest friends, should the hope of the 
smallest emolument preponderate. 






It is a remarkable circumstance that the military- 
expeditions which they conclude upon when 
intoxicated, they faithfully execute, at the 
appointed time, when sober. Not only are they 
destitute of almanacs, they even have no names 
for the days and months. They know, however, 
without the danger of mistake, on what day the 
moon will begin, when it will be at full, and 
when it will be on the wane. They use these 
changes of the moon as a measure of time to 
determine expeditions, so that though distant 
many days' journey the parties assemble at the 
appointed day, and even meet at the very 
precise hour that had been agreed upon. For 
though they have no names for the hours, and no 
machine to point them out, they supply these 
deficiencies by their fingers, with which they 
point to that part of the sky which the sun or 
moon or some nightly star will occupy at the 
period of meeting. When the moon is on 
the wane, they generally judge it a fit time for 
a journey, that they may set out under the cover 


B B 



of darkness, and incur less risk of detection: on 
their return, if they are obliged to make it in haste, 
they wish that luminary to be on the increase. 
They generally begin a journey about mid-day, 
and in different companies, meeting together 
in the evening at some appointed place. 

A European prince, when about to engage in 
a war, wants more than lead and iron : he stands 
in need of gold and silver wherewith to procure 
provisions, and pay his troops. The chieftain 
of the Abipones has no care of this kind : every 
one of his soldiers is furnished with plenty of 
horses, a formidable spear, a bow, and a bundle 
of arrows. These are their only instruments of 
war. The severed heads of the Spaniards, 
thousands of horses and mules taken from their 
estates, children torn from their mothers' bosoms, 
and the glory derived from these, serve both for 
the rewards and trophies of the fighting Abi- 
pones. Though the colony which they purpose 
to attack be more than two hundred leagues 
distant, they each drive but two horses before 
them, and ride upon a third. They do not judge 
it expedient to begin a journey laden with pro- 
visions. They carry nothing either for meat or 
drink. Formerly they are said to have had 
roasted rabbits for provisions, but that was 
when they were less exercised in hunting, being 
unprovided with horses. Now the Abipones 



kill any animal they meet for food, with the 
spear they carry in their hands. That each 
may hunt more expeditiously, and obtain more 
booty, they separate their ranks, unless suspi- 
cious of the enemy's being close upon them, 
and disperse themselves over the plain, after- 
wards assembling to pass the night or mid-day 
together. For they know what situations 
afford the best opportunities of getting wood 
and water, and where they may safely lurk 
without fear of secret hostilities. 

They think gourds and horns, which are used 
for flaggons and drinking-cups in Paraguay, 
a superfluous burden : for they can either take up 
water in the hollow of their hands, or stoop, and 
drink it like dogs. Pools and deep rivers are 
often at hand, but their salt and bitter waters 
are fitter to torture the stomach, than quench 
the thirst. They consider an iron knife, and a 
pebble to sharpen it, necessary instruments on 
a journey; as also two sticks, by the mutual 
attrition of which they can elicit fire even while 
sitting on horseback. Of these trifles consists the 
whole furniture of the Abipones, happy in being 
able to dispense with all that luggage and those 
waggons which in Europe are justly called the 
impediments of the army, and leeches of the 
treasury. Our Abipones pass the day and 
night in the open air, and are either parched 

B B 2 



with heat, or drenched with rain of many days' 
continuance. They expose their bare heads to 
the burning sun; they strip their shoulders, 
breasts, and arms of the garment of sheep's or 
otters' skins, and had rather endure the stings 
of gnats, than the perspiration caused by the 
fervid heat of the air. A turf is their bed at 
night, a saddle their pillow, and the sky their 
covering. Every one waits upon himself, nor 
does the leader employ any one else to prepare 
his food, or saddle his horse. If they have to 
cross wide rivers or vast lakes, they need neither 
bridge nor boat. When it is no longer fordable 
they leap from their horses into the water, strip 
themselves, hold up their clothes at the end of 
their spear in the left hand, and using the right, 
with which they grasp the reins of their horse, 
for an oar, struggle to the opposite bank. 

In the commencement of a journey they daily 
send out scouts in all directions, who, if they 
discover any traces of a foreign nation or any 
mark of hostile designs, immediately announce 
it to their fellow-soldiers. They generally choose 
a situation to pass the night in, which, being 
guarded behind, and on both sides by a lake, 
river, or thick wood, renders access difficult; 
where they cannot be surrounded on a sudden; 
and where a few can repel or elude the attacks 
of a great many. They lie down in a semicir- 



cular form. Each has his spear fixed at his 
head, and four or five keep up a fire burning in 
the midst, unless fear of the enemy obliges them 
to refrain from this comfort, lest the blaze or 
the smoke should betray them: though on 
some occasions, it was of use to multiply fires, 
in order to deceive the enemy; for from the 
number of them the number of men passing the 
night thereabout is usually argued. By this 
artifice Cortez is said to have imposed upon the 
Mexicans. Whilst some are indulging in sleep, 
others, appointed to keep watch, scour the plain 
on horseback, both for the purpose of bringing 
back the scattered horses, and, on the approach 
of danger of admonishing their sleepy comrades 
by sound of trumpet. I have been astonished 
to see with what activity and fidelity they per- 
formed all the offices of watchmen in our colo- 
nies. Whole nights have they spent in riding 
up and down the plains adjacent to the town, 
even in very boisterous weather, whenever the 
slightest rumours were spread of the approach 
of the enemy. By the nightly sound of horns 
and trumpets they signified that they were on 
the alert, and, by showing the enemy that their 
intentions were discovered, prevented them 
from making the attack : for it is usual with 
the savages qever to attempt any thing except 
against the unprepared. During the whole 

B B 3 


1 1 



seven years that I spent amongst the Abi- 
pones, I regularly found that whenever we 
passed sleepless nights in arms, for fear of an 
enemy, not so much as the shadow of one ever 
approached; and that vf hen none of us suspected 
any thing hostile, a formidable swarm of savages 
fell upon our colony. An enemy is never more 
to be dreaded than when he is feared the 





Highly to be admired are the anxious pre- 
cautions with which they precede an attack. 
They minutely premeditate whatever is likely 
to befall them. That they may not be deceived 
in their opinions, they make one of their jug- 
glers the ruler of the expedition, whom, as en- 
dued with the knowledge of things future and 
absent, they consult on all occasions, and, 
madly credulous, revere as the Delphic Apollo. 
Should the event prove contrary to the juggler's 
predictions, not one of them will blame or even 
distrust him. Though he were to commit blun- 
ders every day, he would still carry home a con- 
siderable portion of the spoils, the reward of 
his mendacity. If an attack is to be made next 
day, they contemplate the situation of affairs in 
every point of view, nor ever apply their minds 
to the execution of a project, till convinced of 
its being devoid of danger. They leave the 
drove of superfluous horses with persons to 
guard them, in a place out of sight. They stain 
their faces with various colours, to excite ter- 

B b4 



ror, and for the same purpose some wear a 
crown of parrots' feathers, others a red cap 
sparkling with beads of glass, or snails' shells, 
and others again place an enormous vulture's 
wing on their heads. I knew an Abipon who 
wore the skin of a stag's head, branching with 
horns, by way of a helmet, whenever he was 
going to fight, and another who tied the beak 
of a tunca to his nose before he entered into an 
engagement. I always observed that those per- 
sons who were most solicitous about rendering 
their persons terrible to others, had the least 
courage themselves. The most intrepid, neg- 
lecting these precautions, await the weapons of 
the enemy quite undefended, though they always 
paint their faces. All sit half naked on the bare 
back of the best horse they possess, and, in place 
of a bridle, use a thong fastened to the animal's 
jaws. They throw away all heavy things, and 
whatever may retard the speed of the horse, 
that they may be able to make or avoid an at- 
tack with more celerity. 

The most favourable time for an assault, in 
their apprehension, is either the beginning or 
end of the day, when there is just light sufficient 
to enable them to distinguish all objects. For 
at dawn or tv/ilight they find more men at home 
to slay, and those oppressed with sleep : whereas 
in the day they are generally absent on busi- 



ness. But as the morning or evening have ge- 
nerally been chosen for committing slaughters, 
the Spaniards began to account those times 
dangerous, and by vigilant care to defeat the 
machinations of the savages. Perceiving w^hich, 
the Abipones thought proper to depart from 
their usual custom, and often fell upon us at 
noon, w^hen we were suspecting nothing of the 
matter. The Mocobios and Tobas followed 
their example, so that, in the Abiponian colo- 
nies, we could reckon no part of the day secure 
from hostile designs. They scarcely ever ven- 
ture to make an attack at night, however, for in 
dark places they fear that some person may be 
concealed to kill them. Entering my apart- 
ment to pay me a friendly visit, when it hap- 
pened to be destitute of light, they were imme- 
diately alarmed, and fearfully exclaimed, Ke~ 
men nenegifi greerigi ! How black your house is ! 
But they are not afraid of the dark in the open 
plain, when they want to drive away horses, 
watch, explore the country, or do any thing 
else there. It is peculiar to the Guaycurus to 
break into the colonies and commit their ra- 
vages by night; they secretly send forward 
some of their people to pluck up the stakes 
fixed in the ground for the security of the place, 
that the rest of the company may obtain access 
while the inhabitants are fast asleep, and dream- 



ing of any thing but the impending slaughter. 
It is on this account that the Guaycuru nation 
has been so universally formidable. Moreover, 
the Abipones do not always conduct their as- 
saults in the same manner. If a colony of 
Christians is to be attacked, they approach se- 
cretly by some unknown way, and without noise. 
They block up all the ways with many rows of 
horse, that no place of escape may be left to the 
inhabitants. Others on foot break open the 
doors of houses; but if they judge this perilous 
they set fire to the buildings from a distance by 
shooting arrows headed with burning cotton or 
tow against them, and if the roofs be covered 
with straw or any material of that kind, they 
immediately burn, and wrap the inhabitants in 
flames ; thus, all who rush out are slain by the 
savages, and all who remain within are burnt to 
death ; and it is as certain as it is incredible, 
that the weapons of the savages are more 
dreaded than the fire. In the town of lago San- 
chez, near Corrientes, a church, with the priest 
officiating at the altar, some Indian women and 
children, and a few men, was burnt to ashes. 
At other times the Abipones, having slain or 
captivated all the inhabitants, carry off what- 
ever may be of service to them ; they even take 
away many things, with the use of which they 
are unacquainted, that the Christians may de- 



rive no benefit from them, though they soon 
after break them to pieces, or throw them into 

some river. 

Whenever the Abipones think fit to attack 
the bands of the Spaniards, they rush upon them 
on their horses, not in close ranks, like the Eu- 
ropeans, but in various parties, so that they can 
attack their adversaries at once in front, behind, 
and on both sides, and extending their spears 
above their horses' heads, kill all they meet. 
They strike a blow, but that they may not re- 
ceive one in turn, leap back as quick as they 
came, and presently resuming courage, return 
again and again into the ranks. Every one is 
his own leader ; every one follows his own im- 
pulse. They can turn their horses round in 
various circles, with the utmost swiftness, hav- 
ing them wonderfully under their command. 
They can suspend their bodies from the horse's 
back, and twist them about like a tumbler, or, 
to prevent themselves from being wounded, 
conceal them entirely under the horse's belly. 
It is by this art chiefly that they escape the 
leaden bullets of the Spaniards; for by con- 
tinually changing their position, they deceive 
and weary the eye of him that is taking aim at 
them with a gun. They condemn the stationary 
fighting of the European soldier, and call it 
madness in a man to stand and expose his 



breast as a mark to the flying balls. They 
boast that their quickness in assaulting and 
evading the blow, is the most useful part of the 
art of war. Whoever is aware of the volubility 
of the savages, will never fire till quite sure of 
hitting them ; for after hearing a harmless re- 
port, without seeing any of their comrades fall, 
they will cast away their dread of European 
arms, and grow more daring than ever ; but as 
long as they see you threatening them with a 
gun, they will continue to fear, more anxious 
to save themselves than to kill others. 

The examples of our own age show that rash- 
ness in firing has been the destruction of many, 
— circumspect and provident delay the salvation 
of no fewer. It may be as well to give a few in- 
stances of this. In the territory of St. lago del 
Estero, about dawn a troop of Abiponian horse 
descended from a steep and precipitous rock, and 
attacked a town of the Spaniards, called Las Bar- 
rancas; nor was it any difficult matter for them 
to slay the sleeping inhabitants. The Captain, 
Hilario, awakened by the yelling of the savages, 
and the groans of the dying, occupied the thresh- 
old of his house, keeping a gun always pointed at 
the enemies. Not one of them dared approach 
him. By this threatening action alone, he pre- 
served himself and his little daughter alive 
amidst the deaths of so many of his neighbours. 

VMRi.-a. ''\'- IKV 





Another Spaniard, in the territory of Corrientes, 
seeing the court-yard of his house, which was 
but slightly fortified with stakes, surrounded by 
Abipones, turned his gun, perhaps not loaded, 
towards them, threatening first one, then 
another, by turns. This was more than suffi- 
cient to frustrate the intended assault of the Abi- 
pones. I knew a captain named Gorosito, who 
did much service amongst the soldiers of St. 
lago. He made use of a gun from which you 
could not expect a single spark of fire, and on 
being asked why he did not have it repaired, 
replied that he thought that unnecessary. " It 
is sufficient," said he, " to show even a useless 
gun to the savages, who, not knowing it to be 
defective, are terrified at the very sight of it. 
Furnished with this gun, I have gained not only 
security, but glory, in many skirmishes." But 
I have no occasion for the testimonies and ex- 
perience of others, having myself so often fright- 
ened away troops of assaulting savages, armed 
with a gun which I never once fired. 

On the other hand, how dangerous a thing it 
is to fire guns inconsiderately, we have often 
found on various occasions, but above all in a 
new Indian colony, where a few garrison sol- 
diers guarded the borders of Tucuman, on ac- 
count of the frequent incursions of the savages* 





This little town, the rebellious Mataguayos at- 
tacked about evening with all sorts of weapons. 
The soldiers, seized ynth a sudden trepidation, 
discharged all the fire-arms they could lay hands 
on at the savage band, but to their own injury, 
not that of the enemy, who, leaving their adver- 
saries no time to load afresh, set fire to the houses 
with arrows headed with burning tow, and 
pierced the soldiers, who fled from thence into 
the court-yard, with barbed darts. Two Jesuit 
priests, who officiated there, Fathers Francisco 
Ugalde and Romano Harto, whilst attending to 
the salvation of the dying soldiers, underwent 
the fury of the savages within the palisadoes of 
the house. The first was mortally wounded 
with arrows, and buried in the ruins of the 
burning chapel, where he was entirely reduced 
to ashes, one little bone alone remaining, to 
which funeral honours were afterwards paid 
elsewhere. That his soul was received into 
Heaven is the opinion of all who are acquainted 
with his exceeding piety and mild integrity 
of conduct. Father Romano Harto, his com- 
panion, though wounded with two arrows 
which pierced deep into his side, crept under 
cover of night from the palings of his house 
into a neighbouring wood, and escaped the 
eyes and murderous hands of the savages. Wei- 



tering in blood, and tortured by the pain of 
his wounds and the burning thirst it occa- 
sioned, he passed the night out of doors amongst 
the trees, during a furious tempest of rain, wind, 
and thunder. No one was at hand to lend him 
any aid. At day-break, crawling out into the 
plain, by God's mercy he espied a soldier who 
had fled from the massacre of the day before, 
and who carried him on his horse to the Spa- 
niards at a very great distance, where he "was 
completely healed. What, let me ask, was the 
occasion of so many deaths, and of so tragic an 
event? The unseasonable haste of a few sol- 
diers in discharging their guns. The empty 
noise struck the air alone, and gave such cou- 
rage to the Indians, that, laying aside fear, they 
rushed on more boldly, and denied the Spaniards 
the necessary time for loading their guns afresh. 
It was said, moreover, that many were destitute 
of gunpowder, and all certainly were so of cou- 
rage, panic-struck at the sudden arrival of the 
savages, the burning of the houses, and the 
sight of so many deaths. The assaults of the 
savages must be repelled promptly but provi- 
dently. Arms must be immediately resorted to, 
but something must always be reserved for the 
sudden chances of war: as the Indians, intent 
upon every opportunity of committing mischief, 
easily overcome the unarmed or those that 




manage arms unskilfully. Thus, if thirty artil- 
lery soldiers should undertake the defence of a 
station, they ought to be divided into three 
ranks, so that ten might fire their guns upon the 
enemy, ten load, and the others reserve an equal 
number loaded. By which means they would 
always have time to load their guns, and the 
Indians would never want cause for fear. By 
the careful observance of this method, thirty 
artillery soldiers might be found sufficient to 
rout and put to flight three hundred Americans. 
But if three hundred artillery-men were to fire 
all their guns at once, without killing any of the 
enemy, they, on the other hand, might be over- 
come by thirty savages. For the Abipones, 
like most of the Americans, are intimidated by 
the most trifling slaughter of their companions : 
if but one or two of them fall, the rest instantly 
take to flight, esteeming life far above the honour 
of victory. How comes it then that they are so 
dreaded by other nations? I will explain this 
in the next chapter. 

History of the abipones. 




Naturally fearful, they render themselves 
formidable by art. They make up for the want 
of native bmvery by the noise of their trumpets, 
the craftiness of their ambuscades, by their asto- 
nishing swiftness, their painted faces, and many- 
coloured plumes. They adorn their heads with 
feathers of various birds, either erected like a 
crest, or bearing the appearance of a Crown. 
They paint their faces sometimes white or red, 
but more commonly black. Soot, scraped from 
pans and kettles, is generally used for this pur- 
pose. In travelling, when soot is not to be got^ 
they make a fire, and use its smoke and ashes 
to paint themselves with. The fruit of the tree 
Urucuy furnishes them with materials for a red 
paint : but on sudden occasions they prick their 
tongues with a thorn, and daub their faces with 
the blood that flows plenteously from the wound. 
They do not all paint in the same pattern. Some 
darken the forehead only, some one cheek, and 
some both. Some streak the whole face with 

vol. II. ' CO 




spiral lines ; others only make two circles round 
the eyes ; and others again blacken the whole 
of the face. This custom is common to many 
other nations of Paraguay, especially the eques- 
trian ones. 

The Abipones render themselves formidable 
to the eyes, as well as to the ears of their ene- 
mies ; for they prelude every battle with trum- 
pets, flutes, horns, and clarions, differing in 
sound, materials, and form. The horn instru- 
ments bellow, the wooden ones clatter, and 
those of bone, which are made of the leg of some 
large bird or quadruped, emit a very shrill 
whistle, while those of reeds have a ridiculous 
creaking sound. Others again, consisting of 
the tail of the armadillo, to which a reed is pre- 
fixed, fill the whole air, to a great distance, with 
a horrible roaring. I want words to describe 
the construction and use of all the different 
trumpets. This is very certain, that the Abi- 
pones have more trumpeters than soldiers in 
their armies. These terrible-sounding instru- 
ments they accompany with a savage howl, 
made by striking their lips with their hands. 
When rushing to battle they cry aloud, Laha- 
ralk! Laharalk! Let us go, let us go ; as the Gua- 
ranies say, Yaha ! Yaha ! and the Mocobios, 
Zokoldk! Zokolak ! Whilst the Abipones are in 
battle, they carry their eyes to every side of the 



.i,ii I 

field, to aim, or avoid weapons, and with a 
hoarse and tremulous voice threateningly re- 
peat Hd-Hd-Hd, by which they endeavour to 
provoke the enemy, and excite themselves to 
anger. In European camps also, trumpets, 
pipes, and drums are doubtless used to animate 
and govern the army, and to inspire fear into 
the enemy. But no one will deny that more 
victories have been gained by silence than by 
noise. Would that the Spaniards of Paraguay 
would bear this in mind ! for they, like the sa- 
vages, begin the attack with loud vociferations. 
Barreda, General of the St. lagans, often com- 
plained to me that he could never induce his 
soldiers to refrain from shouting when they at- 
tacked the hordes of the savages, and to ap- 
proach them in silence and by stealth, that 
being caught unawares, they might be pre- 
vented from taking either to flight or arms. 

It is much to be lamented that the terrific 
appearance and horrid clamours of the savages 
are dreaded so greatly by the Spanish country- 
men of Paraguay. We have often seen not 
only their ears and eyes struck, but their minds 
disturbed to such a degree, that losing all self- 
possession, they thought no longer of methods 
whereby to repel force by force, but eagerl/ 
watched for an opportunity of flight to provide 
for their lives, though not for their fame or 

c c 2 




security : for the savages grow more daring the 
more they are feared and fled from. In the towns 
themselves how often has a trepidation arisen, 
when the inhabitants, frequently from mere 
report alone, understood that the Abipones, 
rendered terrible by their blackened faces and 
their whole accoutrement, were flying thither 
on swift horses, shouting to the deadly sound 
of trumpets, brandishing an enormous spear in 
their right hands, laden with bundles of arrows, 
breathing fire and slaughter, and with their 
ferocious eyes threatening an hundred deaths, 
captivity, and wounds. You might have seen 
crowds pacing up and down, and lamenting 
approaching death, before they had even from 
a distance beheld the enemy from whom they 
were to receive it. Not only the unwarlike 
sex, but men distinguished with military titles, 
flew to the stone churches, and to the most 
hidden retreats ; while, had they dared to show 
their faces, and present a gun to the enemy, 
the savages would easily have been put to flight, 
and their panic terror would have ended in 
laughter. Not many years ago it was reported 
one Sunday afternoon in the city of Buenos 
Ayres, that a numerous company of Southern 
savages had rushed into some street of the city. 
The fear excited by this false rumour so occu- 
pied the minds of all, that they ran up and down 




the streets almost distracted, uttering the most 
mournful cries. In hurrying to a place of 
more security, one lost his wig, another his 
hat or cloak, from the violence of his haste. 
Meantime the garrison troops, who had been 
sent to search the whole city, announced that 
not a shadow or vestige of the enemy was to 
be found; tidings which restored serenity to the 
disturbed minds of the inhabitants, and filled 
them with shame for their foolish alarm. Scenes 
of this kind were extremely frequent in the 
cities of Sta. F^, Cordoba, Asumpcion, Salta, 
&c. whilst the savages were overrunning the 
province with impunity. A ridiculous event 
that took place in the city of Corrientes is pe- 
culiarly worthy of relation. About evening a 
report was spread that a troop of Abipones had 
burst into one of the streets, and was employed 
in slaughtering the inhabitants. Upon this 
news numbers crowded to the church, which 
was furnished with strong stone walls. The 
head captain himself, an old man, mingled with 
the crowd of lamenting females, and gave him- 
self up to groans and prayers. " Here, here," 
said he, " in the house of the Lord, and in the 
presence of Jesus Christ, must we die." Indig- 
nant at words so unbecoming a soldier, the secu- 
lar priest, a brave man in the prime of his years, 
exclaimed as he arrived, " I swear by Christ 

c c 3 

'■' ; t 




that we shall not die. The enemies must be 
sought and slain." So saying he leapt upon a 
horse, and armed with a gun hastened to suc- 
cour that part of the city where the enemies 
were said to be raging. But lo and behold 1 
when he arrives there, he finds the inhabitants 
all sound asleep, not even dreaming of the Abi- 
pones ! Such was the terror excited in the 
Paraguayrians, not merely by the figures and 
presence of the Abipones, but by the very 
report of them. 

Two things which long experience has taught 
me, I greatly wish impressed on the minds of 
all. The first is, that the Indians are never less 
to be dreaded than when they present thenl- 
selves most terrible, and with the greatest noise. 
For all that frightful preparation only betrays 
the fears of the savages. Distrusting their cou- 
rage, strength, and arms, they think that paint 
of various colours, feathers, shouting, trumpets, 
and other instruments of terror, will forward 
their success. But any one with a very mode- 
rate share of courage, and stock of armour, will 
despise all this as unworthy of fear. This 
is my first maxim. My second is, that the In- 
dians are never more to be feared than when 
they seem most afraid. They sometimes lurk 
concealed, uttering no sound, and giving no in- 
timation of their presence ; but this silence is 



as sure a prognostic of an attack, as a calm is, 
in the ocean, of an impending storm. They ar- 
rive on a sudden, and surprize the self-secure. 
They imitate death, whose ministers they are, 
by coming when least expected. In the heat of 
battle, the Abipones often take to flight, in the 
design of enticing the Spaniards to pursue them, 
that they may slay them, when they are sepa- 
rated and their ranks disturbed, though unable 
to do so as long as they are in order. Hence 
it not unfrequently happens, that they who 
thought themselves the victors are vanquished 
by the fugitives. They fly to marshes, woods, 
, winding-ways, defiles of mountains, rocks, or 
bushes, which places the excellence of their 
steeds, and their skill in riding and swimming 
enable them quickly to cross ; while the pursu- 
ing Spaniards, incumbered by their clothes and 
baggage, and often destitute of proper horses, 
are easily pierced with spears whilst separated 
from one another, and struggling with the water, 
the mud, and the other difficulties of the way. 
Not to mention other artifices, after committing 
slaughters, plundering houses, and killing the 
inhabitants, the Abipones feign departure, and 
seem to be hastening their flight; but when they 
are supposed many leagues distant, renew the 
assault, surprize the surviving Spaniards, and 
kill all they Can. So that it is a certain fact, 

c c 4 





that the Indians are never more formidable than 
when they seem most afraid. 

A very small number of Abipones are to be 
feared by the Spaniards, however numerous, if 
they be reduced to straits, surrounded on every 
side, and left no way of escape ; for then they 
dare the utmost in their own defence. They 
convert every thing they lay their hands on into 
weapons. Terror inspires them with sagacity 
and courage, and consequently is more to be 
dreaded than the most magnanimous spirit. I 
have i^any instances of this in my mind, but it 
will be sufficient to relate three. An Abipon, 
with arrows, and, when these were consumed, 
with sticks, supplied him by his wife, did so 
much execution against the soldiers of St. lago, 
by whom he was surrounded, that he main- 
tained his post, and when, after many wounds 
inflicted and received, he fell at length, was 
highly extolled for his valour by the very Spa- 
niards against whom he had fought. Nachira- 
larin. Chief of the Yaaucaniga Abipones, spread 
the terror of his name throughout the colonies 
of Paraguay. Accompanied by a crowd of his 
followers, called Los Sarcos, or more properly 
Garzos, from their grey or blue eyes, Nachira- 
larin afflicted the country of Cordoba, Sta. F^, 
Corrientes, and Paraguay, for many years, with 
slaughter and pillage, till he was at length taken 



and slain at the shores of the Tebiguary, by two 
hundred soldiers from Asumpcion. Shut up 
and besieged in a wood with fourteen Abipones, 
he fought with such obstinacy against the com- 
pany of Spaniards, that he did not fall till after 
a contest of several hours. Some of his fellow- 
soldiers could not be prevented from escaping. 
It was never without disgust that I heard this 
victory boasted of by those present at the en- 
gagement ; you would have thought they were 
speaking of the bloody battles of Thrasymene, 
Caudinae Furculse, Blenheim, &c. Certainly the 
leader Fulgentio de Yegros obtained great ce- 
lebrity at that expedition, and was afterwards 
raised to the highest honours in the army, and 
to the government of the province itself. Add 
to these instances, that twenty wood- Abipones 
when attacked in the open plain by three hun- 
dred Christian Mocobios and Abiponian cate- 
chumens, chose to lose their lives before they 
would quit their station. Incredible is the ob- 
stinacy with which these few contended against 
numbers. The place which they had chosen at 
the beginning of the fight they every one occu- 
pied in death. From this it is evident, that 
a few, though inferior in number, arms, and. 
strength, may prove formidable to a multitude, 
if, besieged by a surrounding company, and 
confined by the narrowness of the place, they 



have no room left them for escape. Scipio 
judged wisely that a flying enemy should be al- 
lowed a passage. This precept is generally 
obeyed by the Paraguayrian Spaniards, who 
often yielded the savages more liberty of escape 
than need required. This Barreda found in an 
hundred expeditions which he headed against 
the Abipones and Mocobios. These savages 
display much prudence in the choice of the si- 
tuation of their hordes. They generally choose 
a place which has a wood close behind, a 
lake, river, or marsh in front, and pasture for 
their horses on both sides. Barreda told me 
that whenever hordes so situated were to be at- 
tacked, he ordered his men to besiege them on 
the part towards the wood, that the savages 
might not, as usual, find their security there ; 
but that the soldiers never obeyed his orders, 
well knowing that if they deprived the enemy 
of an opportunity of escape they should have a 
most dangerous conflict, and a very doubtful 





Whenever I make mention of the Paraguay- 
rian soldiers, do not imagine that I am speak- 
ing of the regular disciplined troops, which are 
quartered no where but on the shores of the 
Plata, to guard the cities of Buenos-Ayres, and 
Monte- Video. The cavalry are often ordered 
out against the southern savages, while the 
infantry are employed in ships to hinder the 
contraband trade on the river Plata. In all 
the other colonies throughout Paraguay, the 
colonists themselves take up arms, whenever 
the hostile incursions of the savages are to be 
repelled, or others made against them. The 
territory belonging to every city contains some 
companies of undisciplined soldiery, each of 
which is commanded by a master of the camp 
(maestre de campo,) and a chief captain of the 
watch, (sargento mayor.) The commander-in- 
chief is the Vice-Governour, who is likewise the 
head Judge. Moreover, there is in every city 
a company of what are called reformed captains, 
whose business it is to accompany the Vice- 





Governour, in every expedition, in the capacity 
of life-guards. Many of these are merely 
honorary, never having discharged the duties 
of captains, or even of soldiers. They purchase 
the title, that they may be exempted from the 
burden of war, being only called out to attend 
the Vice-Governour. All the rest are summon- 
ed to warlike expeditions either by the Gover- 
nour, or Vice-Governour. They receive neither 
pay nor clothing from the King, and are obliged 
to furnish their own arms, horses, and food, 
whenever, and as long as the military com- 
mander thinks fit. 

Every age and every country has found the 
soldiers of Spain abundantly brave and active. 
To deny this would be to wrong that most 
noble and glorious nation. That the Spanish 
name, therefore, may receive no blemish from 
what I am going to write of the Paraguayrian 
soldiers, it must be observed that all those who 
boast of a Spanish name in Paraguay, are not 
in reality Spaniards. Amid such a diversity of 
nations, very many are born of Moors, In- 
dians, and a Spanish mother ; of an Indian or 
Moorish mother, and a Spanish father ; or of a 
mixed race of them all. A yellow or darkish 
complexion, a beardless chin, and a mat of 
woolly, curling black hair, plainly denote very 
many to be of African or American origin. 



The Other European Spaniards born in Para- 
guay say, by way of contempt, O es del Inga, 
d del Mandinga, you are sprung either from 
Indians or Negroes : for the King of Peru was 
formerly called the Inga, or Inca, and Man- 
dinga is a province of Negroland, beyond the 
river Niger in Africa. 

Of such various kinds of men are the military 
forces composed in Paraguay. As most of 
them, though ennobled by a Spanish name, are 
very far remote both from Spain and from 
Spanish intrepidity and love of arms, what 
wonder if these unwarlike and beardless sol- 
diers are slaughtered by the savages like so 
many barrow-pigs ? They are worthy both of 
excuse and pity, for, besides being unprovided 
with proper arms, they have no skill in hand- 
ling them. Except the arts of swimming and 
riding, they are entirely ignorant of the laws of 
war, and of military discipline. Moreover, the 
Cordoban soldiers are unable even to swim. 
The major part of them, when called out 
against the savages, for spears, make use of the 
rude knotty stakes which the woods afford, and 
if to these be added the remains of a broken 
dagger, or knife, then, indeed, they think them- 
selves as well armed as Mars or Hercules. 
None but the richer sort have guns, which 
are generally very dear, sometimes not to be 

I'ii I 


'ii 'i'f ii 




purchased. I have often seen carbines sold at 
Buenos-Ayres for five-and-twenty Spanish 
crowns, or fifty German florins a-piece. The 
more distant the colonies are from the market 
of Buenos-Ayres, the higher their price be- 
comes ; in the cities of St. lago, Asumpcion, 
Corrientes, &c. not very handsome guns have 
been sold for forty, or even sixty crowns. If 
any part of the gun get out of order, you will 
rarely find a smith to repair it : hence the guns 
which many of the soldiers carry, are often in 
such a condition, that you would sooner obtain 
water from a flint than a spark of fire from 
them. They are liable to be spoiled in various 
ways ; for, in long journeys, they get knocked 
against trees and stones, or wetted by the rain, 
or injured in some way or other, as the nights 
are always to be passed in the open air, often 
in rainy weather; vast rivers and marshes to be 
swam across, and rugged woods and rocks to 
be ridden over: in consequence of which the 
fire-arms, from not being well taken care of, 
are frequently spoiled. Add to this the frequent 
scarcity or damage of the various articles re- 
quired for loading and charging them, and that 
the flint very often proves useless. Paraguay 
produces plenty of excellent flint, but you can 
never meet with any one who knows how to 
split it properly, and fit it for use. In our 



times even, whenever some hundreds of sol- 
diers fiercely approached the stations of the 
savages, either the steel was rusty and would 
not explode, or the gunpowder so moist as to 
prevent its blazing, so that very few were able 
to discharge their guns. I could fill pages 
with facts of this kind, but will only relate two 
of the more recent ones. A handful of Abi- 
pones were overrunning the territory of St. 
lago. Thirty soldiers were sent to observe 
their motions, but being suddenly attacked by 
the savages, who had lain in wait for them, 
were every one miserably slain. They had 
passed the night in the open air, and as the 
guns were very badly taken care of, the copious 
dew so moistened the gunpowder, that Vesuvius 
itself would not have been able to kindle it. This 
slaughter was effected by twenty Abiponian 
youths. Two hundred soldiers, headed by 
Fulgentio de Yegros, attacked the hordes of 
the Tobas. I was astonished to hear the cap- 
tains, on their return from this expedition, 
lamenting that at the very moment of the 
savages' assault, they had found their muskets 
unmanageable, and quite useless, either from 
rust or wet. They had spent greatest part of 
the night in a field, amongst trees dropping 
with plenteous dew, that at day-break they 
might steal unobserved to the enemy's station. 
It is well known to us, and can be surprizing 




i I' 

i Pi 





■■ ^rJ 

Kt ■! 



^: ll 








to no one, that the undisciplined, and temporary 
soldiers of Paraguay, are accustomed neither 
to the keeping, nor handling of weapons. They 
have been employed all their lives in different 
arts and occupations. Unless a man be pre- 
viously instructed in military discipline, who 
can expect him to prove a proper soldier in the 
camp ? Many go out against the savages who 
are soldiers and Spaniards in name only. If 
any of the colonists, more respectable by birth 
and fortune, and better furnished with arms 
and skill to use them, are summoned to attend 
an expedition, they usually hire very bad sub- 
titutes. Others, that they may not be sepa- 
rated from their families, and exposed to the 
weapons of the enemy, bribe the captains to 
pass them over; in consequence of which, those 
who are worst provided with arms, and most 
ignorant of the military art, principally feel 
the burden of the war, and are sent to oppose 
the savages, to the great detriment of the pro- 
vince, and di'sgrace of the Spanish name. Be- 
cause the lower orders are poor, they are 
ordered to fight, while the more opulent are 
left at home to take care of their estates : and 
as they are forced out to the service again 
and again, and obliged to spend many months 
from home, they grow daily poorer and poorer, 
and, together with their families, are over- 
whelmed with misery. 



If the head of the expedition ever furnish 
them with guns, they generally return them, at 
the end of it, entirely spoiled, without having 
killed so much as a gnat. Two hundred ex- 
cellent guns, each furnished with a bayonet, 
were procured on one occasion at the public 
expense, from the city of Asumpcion. In less ' 
than three years, out of the two hundred there 
only remained six, and those in such a condition 
that they could be made no possible use of. 
The bayonets were either lost or broken, having 
been used on the journey either for roasting 
meat, or chopping wood. The Viceroy of Cor- 
doba, suspecting the savage Pampas of hostile 
designs, went out as far as the river Tercero. 
Having collected soldiers in the country he gave 
them six portions of gunpowder, intended for 
so many charges, wrapped up in paper. One 
of these heroes immediately stuffed all the six 
portions into his gun, and perceiving that the 
tube was not filled to the top complained to his 
captain that he had not gunpowder enough 
given him, for that the barrel of his gun was 
not filled. Another thrust three charges into 
his gun, and as the paper in which they were 
wrapped obstructed the touch-hole, found it 
was not possible to fire it : the mistake of this 
martial Dametas afforded his fellow-soldiers a 
subjectfor hearty laughter. Many of them, being 



D D 



I,. .} 

». ■■ 

unprovided with a pouch, take very bad care of 
their charges of gunpowder, which are wrapped 
in paper ; for they tear and wet them, and often 
scatter them on the ground. The greater num- 
ber of them carry gunpowder in a horn, and 
bullets, or pieces of lead, in a bag. Instead of 
paper for ramming down the powder and ball, 
some use cotton, others moss, tow, or any thing 
they can lay their hands upon. Many to this 
purpose apply the wool out of their horse-cloths. 
As all these necessary articles are kept in so 
many different places, it is incredible how much 
time is consumed in loading a gun. As, to all 
this delay, but very little dexterity in aiming is 
added, the consequence is that the European 
fire-arms are now as much despised by the Abi- 
pones as they were formerly dreaded. These 
innocuous soldiers think they have performed a 
great feat if, for a wonder, they see their gun 
smoking, and hear the report, though they have 
not hurt a hair of one of the enemies' heads. I 
have no sort of doubt that the Paraguayrian 
soldiers would perform better with a sword and 
spear than with a gun. If they ever do any 
execution amongst the savages, it is owing to 

iron, not to lead. 

Why then, it may be asked, are not these ig- 
norant peasants instructed in the handling of 
arms ? This has long been vainly desired by 



all good men. The endeavours of many persons 
to this effect have constantly proved unavailing. 
There are none able to teach, and none willing to 
learn the arts of war. Whilst I was in Paraguay, 
Francisco Gonzalez, lieutenant of the horse, 
with other military commanders, was sent by 
the King's order from Spain to Buenos-Ayres to 
instruct the people of that land in military dis- 
cipline ; but none were willing to become his 
scholars. The richer Spaniards, who reside in 
the more respectable cities and colonies, gene- 
rally shun the hardships of the militia, and the 
rest are scattered up and down the distant 
estates, where they employ themselves in the 
breeding of cattle. It is a difficult matter for 
persons so many leagues apart, and separated 
by rivers, woods, and an immense tract of plain 
country, to be collected into one place, for the 
purpose of being instructed in the arts of war. 
The first time many will attend the military 
school, attracted by the novelty of the European 
horsemen, more than by the desire of learning. 
The next day, when their curiosity is satisfied, 
you will reckon far fewer, the next scarce ten. 
Should they be ordered to attend in the King's 
name, even if the command were accompanied 
with threats, it would be of no avail. They 
would all excuse their absence on some account 
or other. One would adduce illness as a pre- 

D D 2 




in ! J 







H ■ 






text ; another would accuse the weather, ano- 
ther would allege the necessity of a journey or 
business that admits of no delay. Others would 
frowardly say they did not choose to come. 
This my friend Gonzalez found, when, much 
against his will, he was passing his time un- 
employed in the city of Buenos- Ayres. 

Why, you will say, did not regular troops 
from Spain keep watch in the colonies to re- 
press the savages? I should not approve of this 
either. A whole army would scarce suffice to 
such an extensive province, and, divided into so 
many parts, what could it effect against a mul- 
titude of enemies? The soldiers would indeed be 
superior to the Americans in the skilful manage- 
ment of fire-arms, but very far inferior in the 
arts of swimming and riding, and in tolerance 
of fatigue, heat, hunger, and thirst. Incum- 
bered with tents, waggons, boats, or pontoons, 
which they could not dispense with, they 
would be unable to pursue the flying horsemen 
of the savages, still less to reach their hordes, 
which are sometimes two hundred leagues dis- 
tant from the cities. Certain it is that the 
Spanish dragoons appointed to guard the city 
of Buenos- Ayres were very unwilling to go 
out against the southern savages, from whom 
they oftener gained wounds than victory. 
Every one knows that the regiment of foot sent 



as supplies to the city of Sta. F^, when it was 
ahuost destroyed by the Abipones and Moco- 
bios, were of no service whatever, as the savages 
always cunningly evaded a stationary fight with 
them. I do not deny that, under Pizarro and 
Cortez, the Europeans slew, routed, and subju- 
gated innumerable Indians, but not equestrian 
Indians. Were these same heroes to return at 
this day to fight the Abipones, Mocobios, Tobas, 
and other equestrian people of Paraguay, I 
should augur them more trouble and less glory. 
Those first Spaniards who entered America, 
mounted on horses, emitting lightning from 
their swords, and thunder from their fire-arms, 
and furnished with whiskers, appeared to the 
beardless, unarmed Americans, a new race of 
men, exempted from death, whom they either 
avoided by flight, or, if that were impracticable, 
conciliated by submission. The savages, who 
now make war against the Spaniards, daily see 
how possible it is for them both to be con- 
quered, and to die, and can make use of iron 
spears, and swift horses, to elude attacks, or 
make them themselves. 

Taught by long experience in the affairs of 
Paraguay, I declare it as my opinion, that the 
Americans, were they instructed in the arts of 
war, and furnished with arms, and all the ne- 

D D 3 

! I !l 











cessary apparatus, by reason of their natural 
abilities for riding, swimming, and enduring the 
hardships of weather and of warfare, would be 
of more service against the incursions of the 
savages than any European soldiers. In every 
part of Paraguay you may see youths truly 
Spaniards in origin, name, and disposition ; in- 
telligent, agile, intrepid, remarkable for strength 
and stature, and astonishingly dexterous in 
horsemanship ; of such were one company 
formed in every territory, commanded by able 
captains, and furnished with a regular stipend, 
I think that the Indians, when foes, might 
easily be induced to embrace the friendship 
of the Spaniards, and when friends, kept in their 
duty; and thus the colonies would be freed 
from their afflictions. But if, on urgent danger, 
a regiment were formed out of four or five of 
these companies, none of the savage hordes, 
however numerous, would be invincible to 
them, were a leader of tried valour and expe- 
rience at the head of the expedition. About 
fifty horsemen of this description, supported at 
the public expense by the city of Sta. F^, and 
called Blandenges, have shown much conduct 
on many occasions. A troop of these horse- 
men might watch in each of the Spanish colo- 
nies, and be easily supported, partly out of 



the royal treasury, partly at the expense of 
the more opulent Spaniards, whom it chiefly 
interests to preserve the security of the estates 
and of commerce from the incursions of the 

1) D 4 

,1 111 















As soon as the Abipones see any one fall in 
battle under their hands, their first care is to 
cut off the head of the dying man, which they 
perform with such celerity that they would win 
the palm from the most experienced anatomists. 
They lay the knife not to the throat, but to the 
back of the neck, with a sure and speedy blow. 
When they were destitute of iron, a shell, the 
jaw of the palometa, a split reed, or a stone 
carefully sharpened, served them for a knife. 
Now with a very small knife they can lop off a 
man's head, like that of a poppy, more dex- 
terously than European executioners can with 
an axe. Long use and daily practice give the 
savages this dexterity. For they cut off the 
heads of all the enemies they kill, and bring 
them home tied to their saddles or girths by the 
hair. When apprehension of approaching hos- 
tilities obliges them to remove to places of 
greater security, they strip the heads of the 
skin, cutting it from ear to ear beneath the nose, 
and dexterously pulling it off along with the 



hair. The skin thus drawn from the skull, and 
stuiFed with grass, after being dried a little in 
the air, looks like a wig, and is preserved as a 
trophy. That Abipon who has most of these 
skins at home, excels the rest in military re- 
nown. The skull too is sometimes kept to be 
used as a cup at their festive drinking-parties. 

Though you cannot fail to execrate the bar- 
barity of the Abipones, in cutting off and flay- 
ing the heads of their enemies, yet I think you 
will judge these ignorant savages worthy of a 
little excuse, on reflecting that they do it from 
the example of their ancestors, and that of very 
many nations throughout the world, which, 
whenever they have an opportunity of venting 
their rage upon their enemies, seem to cast 
away all sense of humanity, and to think that 
the victors have a right to practise any outrage 
upon the vanquished. Innumerable are the forms 
of cruelty which the other savages throughout 
America exercise towards their slain and cap- 
tive enemies. The Iroquois in Canada flay the 
heads of their enemies before they are dead. 
The Jesuit Lafitau, in his book intitled Moeurs 
des Sauvages Amerkains, 8^c. declares that he 
saw a woman of French extraction, who lived 
in good health for many years after having her 
head scalped by the Iroquois, and that she 
went by the name oiLa Tete Pelee, Many are 




said to have survived this scalping. Some of 
the Canadian Indians flay the whole body of 
the enemy they have killed, and exhibit his 
skin as a testimonial of their victory and valour. 
Sometimes the skin of the hand is converted 
into a tobacco-pouch. Although such treat- 
ment awaits the bodies of the dead, yet it 
is preferable to fall in battle than to be 
taken in captivity by the Iroquois. The 
more warlike of their captives whom they 
stand in fear of, along with the women, chil- 
dren, and old men, whom they consider in- 
cumbrances, are burnt the first day on the field 
of battle ; others share the same fate the suc- 
ceeding days, to expedite their return. If the 
fear of pursuers impose the necessity of haste, 
they bind their captives to trees, and set fire 
to those next them, that they may either be 
roasted by a slow fire, or if the flame should 
grow languid, be destroyed by hunger. The 
other captives, whom they think likely to be 
useful to them at home, they bind and carry 
away. At night, that they may not take ad- 
vantage of the darkness, and flee, they stretch 
out their legs and arms in the form of the 
letter X, and bind them with a cord to a 
stake, to which they fasten two longer ropes 
one to tie the neck, the other the breast. The 
extremity of theSe the savage master holds in 



his hand, that if the captive endeavours to ex- 
tricate himself he may be awakened. Painful 
indeed must the night be to these wretches, for 
as they are entirely naked, their bodies are 
bitten by swarms of ants and wasps, from which, 
being bound hand and foot, they cannot defend 
themselves. At the end of a miserable journey 
they are either condemned to wretched slavery, 
or to the pile. Similar barbarity is practised 
by the savages of South America towards their 
captives. The Brazilians fatten them for some 
time, and then publicly kill them by knocking 
them on the head with a club. The limbs are 
dissected and afford a feast to the whole horde ; 
for they are cannibals, and engaged in perpe- 
tual wars with their neighbours. I cannot for- 
bear mentioning a strange piece of cruelty prac- 
tised by the Southern savages towards their 
captives. If they catch one of the enemy in the 
plain they do not kill him, but cut off both his 
feet and leave him there, so that unable to pro- 
secute his journey, he dies a lingering death 
amidst the bitterest torments. 

This wicked system of cruelty towards cap- 
tives and enemies is abhorred by the Abipones, 
who never torture the dying. After taking a 
village of Spaniards or Indians, they do not 
promiscuously slay all the inhabitants. Unless 
highly irritated by some previous injury, they 



always spare the women and children. They 
pull the skins off the heads of the slain, and 
carry them home as testimonies of their war- 
like achievements, but never use them to cover 
themselves or their horses with, as some do. 
They show the utmost kindness towards their 
captives, as I have declared in the thirteenth 
chapter, on the Manners and Customs of the 
Abipones. According to Lafitau, the Hurons 
and Iroquois, though very savage in other re- 
spects, never ill-treat their captives at home, 
except they be of the number of those that are 
condemned to be burnt, by the sentence of the 





Different enemies must be combkted with 
different arms. The Abipones, when they go 
out against the Spaniards, lay aside their breast- 
plates of antas' skins, and their bows, and place 
their chief dependence in a swift horse and a 
strong lance ; but when attacked at home by a 
foreign foe, whoever it may be, they make suc- 
cessful use of the bow, for, from the constant 
exercise of war and hunting, they acquire so 
much skill in the use of that weapon that they 
take a more certain aim with it than the Spa- 
niards do with a gun. 

Let us suppose that a rumour is spread 
throughout the hordes of the Abipones that the 
savages are speedily coming to attack them. 
If they have strength and courage sufficient to 
repel the enemy, trusty scouts are sent out in 
every direction to learn their route. The rest, 
meantime, make it their chief care to prepare a 
drink of honey, or the alfaroba, for a public 
drinking-party. For the Abipones think that 
they are never more acute in counsel, or braver 




in fight, than when they are drunk. Famiano 
Strada, in his history of the Belgic war, writes 
thus of Schenck, a celebrated general of the 
Belgians : " He never handled arms better than 
when he had drank profusely, and was intoxi- 
cated with wine." I have often found the same 
to be the case with the Abipones as with 
Schenck. In the colony of St. Ferdinand we 
learnt that a hostile troop of Mocobios and 
Tobas were advancing toward us by hasty 
marches, and were only two days' journey dis- 
tant. The Abipones, astonished, not alarmed 
at this news, though very few, awaited the as- 
sault of numbers amidst drinking and songs of 
triumph. They spent two days with their 
horses shut up in stalls within the town, that 
they might be always in readiness, with their 
faces painted to excite terror, holding a cup 
in one hand, and a quiver in the other. Quin- 
quagesima Sunday came. At three o'clock in 
the afternoon the troop of savage horse ap- 
peared in sight. The Abipones, though after 
such long drinking hardly in possession of their 
senses, or able to stand upon their legs, snatched 
up their spears, leaped upon their horses, which 
were made ready by the women, and, scattered 
in a disorderly manner up and down the plain, 
rushed full speed upon their enemies, amid the 
discordant bray of trumpets, with such good 



fortune, that, abandoning their project of 
plundering the colony, they sought security 
in the adjacent woods. But being prevented 
from this by the Abipones, they rushed off on 
all sides. The enemies hurried away at full 
gallop ; the Abipones endeavoured to overtake 
them. It was not a fight, but a race between 
the fugitives and their pursuers. The contest 
consisted more in the swiftness of their steeds 
than in weapons, which were sent backwards 
and forwards, but, because badly aimed, with- 
out injuring very many. Our victors returned 
to the colony when the night was far advanced, 
some not till the morning, all safe and sound, 
(except one, whose head was bruised with a 
club,) and, what was very surprizing, quite so- 
ber, having exhaled the effects of the liquor, 
not with sleeping, but with riding and fighting. 
How many of the enemies were killed and 
wounded I do not know: but that more than two 
hundred were put to flight by seventy drunken 
men was a noble victory for us. Let us now 
treat of the other preparations which the Abi- 
pones make previous to a fight. 

Every thing being in readiness for the drink- 
ing-party, which is held before a battle, their 
chief anxiety is to conceal their droves of 
horses from the eyes and hands of the enemy. 
Reserving the best within the neighbouring 




stalls, that they may be ready for the uses of 
war, they place the remainder in stations, access 
to which is rendered difficult to the enemy either 
by the high bank of a river, the intervention of 
a wood, or their ignorance of the way. They 
also look out for places of concealment for their 
wives and children, and all that are unable to 
defend themselves. The Spaniards told me 
they had often seen whole Indian families 
plunged up to the neck in lakes and rivers. As 
soon as ever a report is spread amongst the 
Abipones of the approach of an enemy, they 
immediately stain their faces, and carry about 
bundles of weapons, and a military trumpet, 
which they blow chiefly in the dead of the 
night, that the enemies may know from their 
scouts that they have shaken off all fear, and are 
vigilant and desirous of the conflict. When 
certified of the approach of the enemy's forces, 
they provide for their safety in various ways. 
If they are few in comparison with their adver- 
saries, they make up for the want of strength 
by craft. That they may not be obliged to 
join in open battle, they use various artifices to 
prevent the enemy from gaining access to 
their stations. They set out on the road, and 
surprize them by an ambuscade, or make them- 
selves appear more numerous by redoubled 
tumult of military trumpets, or leaving a num- 



ber of drummers and trumpeters at a distance 
behind, pretend that they are only the part of 
a company that is to come after; or putting 
Spanish dresses on some of their men, make 
it appear as if they had Spanish soldiers at 
hand to give them aid. Misled by these arti- 
fices, the enemies not unfrequently give up 
their intention of fighting, and make the best 
of their way back again. Often, however, no 
opportunity is left them for stratagems. Com- 
pelled by a sudden inroad of the enemy, or al- 
lured by confidence of victory to resolve upon 
a combat, a piece of ground opposite the ap- 
proaching enemy, and near the horde, is se- 
lected for the purpose, that they may be near 
their wives and children should they be in 
danger. Heralds are sometimes sent forward 
by the enemy to explain the causes of the war, 
and challenge the inhabitants to fight. But 
the bellowing of drums and trumpets, and hor- 
rid vociferations, are generally the only answer 
they obtain. Every thing preceding and ac- 
companying a battle, is a spectacle worthy to 
be seen, and laughed at by Europeans. About 
the beginning of the conflict you may see jug- 
glers mounted on horseback, who, making ri- 
diculous gestures, and whirling round palm 
boughs in their hands, utter the direst impreca- 
tions on the hostile army : whilst old female 

" VOL. II. E E 

I JI^^M 




jugglers are observed crawling on the ground, or 
leaping in the streets, and with sullen eyes and 
a hoarse voice, uttering some omen or curse. 
You may see the Abipones with their faces 
stained, with many-coloured feathers in their 
heads, and arms in their hands, some wearing 
breastplates, others entirely naked, enter the 
field with a marching gait, and appearing to 
threaten the whole world. You may see 
mountains in labour bring forth ridiculous mice. 
These heroes, when placed in order of battle, 
wish to be counted by the Father, as they can- 
not count themselves. As I walked up and down 
the ranks, 1 was frequently asked, *' Are we 
many?" to which I constantly replied, "You 
are very many;" lest they should be disheart- 
ened at their want of numbers. Experience 
taught me that the towns were mostly attacked 
by a numerous enemy when very few of 
the inhabitants were left at home— the rest 
being dispersed far and wide for the sake of 
hunting. The sagacious savages make the 
assault when they have learnt from their spies 
that the colony is bare of defenders. They 
form themselves into a square, if the place will 
admit of it. I observed that they sometimes 
placed the archers in the midst, and the spear- 
men on each wing ; at others, the archers and 
spearmen ranged themselves promiscuously. 



The Mocobios, Tobas, and Guaycurus leave 
their horses a little way off, in sight, and join bat- 
tle on foot. The Cacique, or any other person 
in authority, sits on horseback in the front of 
the army ; but when the battle commences he 
dismounts and fights among the rest. The 
leaders of the Abipones are generally great 
fighters, as their example has more weight than 
words amongst the soldiers, who follow their 
leader with greater willingness when he is 
bravely fighting, than when he is exhorting 
them from a distance. 

At first they stand in close ranks, but after- 
wards, when the enemy is to be attacked or 
repelled, in such loose ones that each soldier 
has a space of four or six cubits on every side. 
In fighting they never stand erect, or quietly 
on their feet. They run up and down with 
their bodies bent to the ground, and their eyes 
fixed on their adversaries, for the sake either of 
avoiding or aiming a blow. With a threatening 
voice they provoke the enemy by continually 
exclaiming hd, hd, hd, raising their voices from 
the lowest to the very highest tones. They rub 
their right hand every now and then on the 
ground, lest the string of the bow should slip 
from their fingers when they are moistened 
with perspiration. The Indians do not imitate 
the Europeans, who send a shower of darts at 

E e2 






histohy of the abipones. 

the same moment at the enemy. Each takes 
aim at his adversary with his arrow, so that 
one diligently watches the eyes and motions of 
the other, and, when he perceives himself aimed 
at, changes his situation by leaping to the right 
or left. Many weapons are cast, though sel- 
dom with impunity, at the leader of the army, 
and the most distinguished warriors. When one 
is often aimed at by many, had he more eyes 
than Argus, and were he more agile than the 
wind, no one can dare to promise him security; 
so that if he leave the field of battle unhurt, it 
is often to be attributed to good fortune, seldom 
to dexterity, and still seldomer to his leathern 
breastplate, which I myself have seen yield not 
only to spears, but even to the stronger arrows. 
If their own arrows fail them they will send 
back those shot by the enemy. However, when 
their quivers are exhausted, as sometimes hap^ 
pens, and their souls fired by the combat, after 
having fought for some time, at a distance with 
a bow, they will come to close fighting with a 
spear. Neither then, however, will the plain 
be inundated with human blood. The savages 
have, indeed, great power in dealing blows, but 
they have still greater swiftness in eluding them. 
The whole combat is often confined to threats 
and vociferations. Sometimes many are wound- 
ed, but very few die in proportion to the numr 
ber of wounds ; for unless the head or breast 



be piercied they never despair of the man's life. 
They are used to consider broken ribs and im- 
mense gashes in the other members, as attended 
with little danger ; they calmly look upon them 
without any expression of pain, and, half alive, 
reluctantly suffer themselves to be borne from 
the fight on other persons' arms. This I learnt, 
that these savages, unless flight be denied 
them, seldom dare the worst. Terrified at the 
slaughter of a very few of their fellow-soldiers, 
they desert their leader, and escape how they 
can. There is no need to sound a retreat. 
Should ten or twenty take to flight, the rest, 
freed from all restraint of shame, trust their 
lives to their horses, and rush along with the 
impetuosity of a river that has burst its banks. 
On urgent occasions you will see two or three 
seated on one horse. At the beginning of 
an engagement on foot, they take care that 
the means of flight may not fail them : behind 
the backs of the combatants, and out of reach 
of the weapons, they station horses, upon which 
young men sit, and safely watch the vicissi- 
tudes of the fight. 

But if the enemy, finding the fortune of war 
against them, betake themselves to flight, they 
scarce have to fear a very obstinate pursuit 
from their adversaries, as the conquerors are 
very cautious not to forfeit their glory; they 

E E 3 





are unwilling, by a doubtful contest, to expe- 
rience a change of fortune, and to undergo a 
new danger. A spear, or garment, taken from 
them in battle by their enemies, the Abipones 
consider a terrible disgrace to their nation, re- 
garding the loss of it with as much grief as 
Europeans do that of their drums or standards. 
The Abipones never attribute victories, and the 
fortunate events of battles, to their own skill, 
but to the arts of their jugglers. Although 
they hold tlie other Paraguay rian nations in 
contempt, yet they allow the Guaycurus to 
be formidable; they say that they are cut 
down like funguses by the spears of these 
savages, not because they excel them in good- 
ness of arms, strength of body, or courage of 
mind, but because they enter the fight attended 
by far more skilful jugglers. The Cacique 
Alaykin affirmed to me, that persons blown 
upon by their breath fell to the ground, as if 
struck with thunder. 

But now let us contemplate the Abipones 
triumphing after a successful fight. If the 
event has answered to their wishes they fill the 
country with joyful rumours of victory, and 
generally exaggerated accounts of the slaughter 
of the enemy. They who have behaved with 
distinguished valour have the ears and eyes of 
all directed towards them. They who have re- 



ceived wounds in the battle deliver themselves 
to be sucked to a crowd of juggler physicians, 
a multitude of spectators admiring and ex- 
tolling their constancy and fortitude. Great 
numbers flock to behold the spoils and trophies 
taken from the enemy. The women, giving way 
to an excess of gladness, seem mad with joy ; 
they would make no end of singing, leaping, 
and applauding, were they not obliged to turn 
their attention towards making preparations for 
the public drinking-party of their husbands ; 
who, at the same time that they wash the hor- 
rible colours from their faces, endeavour to clear 
from their minds, with wine, their past anxiety 
respecting the conflict. In the assembly of 
drinkers, where the victory is celebrated amidst 
confused clamours, and songs accompanied with 
the sound of gourds and drums ; when all are 
heated with liberal draughts of mead, each 
begins to relate his own brave actions, and to 
laugh at the errors, cowardice, and flight of 
others; which not being endured by any of 
the Abipones, the warriors contend furiously 
amongst themselves, first with fists, and then, 
growing more enraged, with spears and arrows. 
Did not the women interpose to effect a recon- 
ciliation, and employ themselves in snatching 
away their weapons, and leading their husbands 

E E 4 



i 1: 


: Wi 


! ! 



home, it is beyond a doubt that more would be 
killed after the battle than in the battle. 

If a battle be fought at a distance from the 
town, a horseman is sent forward to announce 
the success of it to the hordesmen. As soon as 
this messenger is espied from a distance, a 
crowd come out to meet him, striking their 
lips with their right hands, and accompany 
him to his house. Having preserved the pro- 
foundest silence he leaps down from his horse 
on to a bed ; whence, as from a rostrum, he 
announces the event of the battle, with a grave 
voice, to the surrounding multitude. If a few 
of the enemy are killed and wounded, he begins 
his story with Nalamichirihi ; they are all 
slaughtered, which he utters with a severe 
countenance and declamatory tone, and re- 
ceives the applauses of the by-standers. He 
then enumerates those that he himself hasv slain 
in battle, and to enhance the merit of the vic- 
tory, affirms of many, Eknam Capitan ; he was 
a captain. At every name that is mentioned of 
an enemy slain in battle the air resounds with 
Kem ekemat? Ta Yeegam ! an exclamation of 
surprize. The number of captives, waggons, 
and horses, that have been taken, are then de- 
tailed with infinite exaggeration, for of each he 
asserts that they are innumerable ; Chik Leye- 



kalipl; at which the auditors burst forth into 
an exclamation of Ndre, by which they express 
a strange and unheard-of thing. Having mi- 
nutely recounted every circumstance tending 
to set forth this arduous fight and splendid vic- 
tory, he proceeds to discover those of his 
fellow-soldiers that have been wounded in the 
battle. At every name the by-standers groan, 
and utter the word Tayreta ! Poor little thing ! 
As the Abipones think it a crime to utter the 
name of a dead person, the narrator makes use 
of a paraphrase, thus, Yoal^ eknam oanerma Ha- 
melln laneuek la chit kaeka : The man,, the hus- 
band of the woman Hamelen, is now no more. 
The mention of the death of one of their 
countrymen entirely destroys all the pleasure 
which the news of the victory had excited ; so 
that the announcer immediately finds himself 
deserted by his late attentive listeners, as soon 
as ever he begins to touch upon this melancholy 
subject. All the women unloose their hair, 
snatch up gourds and drums, and lament in the 
manner that I have described in the twenty- 
fourth chapter. 

The Abipones, when returned from an expe- 
dition, enter their horde, not in one company, 
but separately, without ostentation, if victo- 
rious, and without signification of sorrow, if 
conquered, or even if desperately wounded, un- 






less they have lost their leader. Then indeed 
they return with their hair partially shaven, to 
attest their grief, and convey the bones of their 
deceased Cacique home, not without funeral 
apparatus. The anxiously expected return of 
the warriors engages the eyes, ears, tongues, 
and hands of all ; some surveying the droves of 
cattle, the captives, and spoils ; others enquiring 
for the safety of their relations ; others ex- 
amining the wounds of the soldiers ; and all the 
women lamenting. Each retains the captives, 
horses, mules, and other things that he has 
taken, unless, as usual amongst them, he chooses 
to share them with his friends. From one 
journey they often bring home many thousand 
horses, which they divide amongst themselves, 
with what regulations I know not, but without 
any disputes. On the succeeding days every 
one is eager to make trial of the horses which 
have fallen to his share in the partition of the 
spoils ; they value swiftness alone, disregarding 
every beauty which adorns a horse. You may 
daily see a crowd of young men riding races 
with one another, and at the same time con- 
tending with words, each extolling his own 
above his neighbour's horse. The remembrance 
of the victory obtained over the enemy, dis- 
turbs as much as it delights their minds ; for 
they live in continual fear that the enemy will 


speedily come to avenge the death of their 
people and loss of their property. Hence, 
in order to tranquillize their minds, and devise 
some method to keep off the foe, their chief 
care is to prepare a public drinking-party, that 
sure quickener, as they think, of the wit and 
exciter of valour. 





The Abipones, not satisfied with celebrating 
their victory, as soon as they return, and M^hilst 
their hands are yet bloody, renew the memory 
of it by public festivities every year. The 
whole of these festivities consists in singing, 
dancing, and extravagancies. When they have 
all collected plenty of honey in the woods, a 
day is appointed for this anniversary ceremony, 
and a large house equal to the number of guests 
fixed upon. The last three davs before that 
appointed for the drinking-party, one of the 
public criers, covered with an elegant cloak, 
goes up and down all the tents ; at the entrance 
of each he is saluted by the women with a fes- 
tive percussion of the lips ; his spear, to which 
a little brass bell is affixed, the mother of the 
family receives, by way of honour, from the 
hands of the comer, and restores to him again 
on his departure. The crier, on entering the 
house, sits down upon a cushion prepared for 
him, of saddles, or some wild animal's skin. 
He then, in a set speech, invites the father of 



the family to the public celebration of victories. 
On his departure, he is dismissed by the women 
with the usual percussion of the lips. In the 
same manner he enters the dwellings of the 
other hordesmen, always accompanied by a 
crowd of boys. The office of crier, which the 
noble Abipones despise, is generally performed 
by some juggler of advanced age and low birth. 
Meantime they furnish the house, appointed for 
the meeting, with a hasty apparatus. The 
floor is covered with the skins of tigers and of 
kine, upon which the guests sit. A temporary 
erection is made of reeds, upon which they 
place the hairy scalps of their slain enemies, as 
trophies. When they prefer celebrating the 
victory without the tent in the open air, they 
hang these trophies upon spears fixed upright 
in the circle in which they sit. At sun-set, the 
persons invited all flock to the appointed place, 
where they sit down on the ground, having 
leathern vessels of mead set in the midst of 
them, though the drinking does not commence 
till about morning, the whole night being spent 
in chaunting their victories. 

They never sing all at once, but only two at 
a time, always greatly varying their voices from 
high to low, one either taking up, or following, 
or interrupting the other, and sometimes 
accompanying him. Now one, now the other 

! K 




is silent for a short interval. The tones vary 
according to the subject of the song, with many 
inflexions of the sound, and, if I may so express 
myself, a good deal of shaking. He who, by a 
quicker motion of the throat, can now suspend 
the song for a while, now protract, and now 
interrupt it with groans, or laughter, or can 
imitate the bellowing of a bull, or the tremulous 
voice of a kid, — he will gain universal applause. 
No European would deny that these savage 
singers inspired him with a kind of melancholy 
and horror, so much are the ears, and even the 
mind affected by that deadly chaunting, the 
darkness adding greatly to the mournful effect. 
One of the singers rattles a gourd filled with 
maize seeds, to the time of the music. Some- 
times the gourd alone preludes the singing^ as 
in a band of musicians ; at others, it follows the 
voice of the singer, and very seldom rests for 
ever so little a while. When two are singing 
at a time, it is wonderful to hear so much 
concord in such discordant voices. You never 
observe them hesitate or pause: for they do 
not sing extemporaneously, but what has 
been long studied beforehand. The songs are 
restricted by no metrical laws, but sometimes 
have a rhythmical sound. The number of verses 
is regulated, not according to the pleasure of 
the singer, but according to the variety of the 



subject. Nothing but warlike expeditions, 
slaughters, and spoils of the enemy, taking of 
towns, plundering of waggons and estates, 
burning and depopulating colonies of the Spa- 
niards, and other tragedies of that kind furnish 
the savages with subjects for singing and re- 
joicing. These events, together with the place, 
and time, where, and when they happened, 
they describe ; not rudely, but with consider- 
able elegance. Struck, as it were, with poetic 
rage, by appropriate words, and modulations 
of the voice, they contrive to express indig- 
nation, fear, threatening, or joy. Though, in 
order not to damp the hilarity, they scarce 
make any mention of the deaths, and wounds 
of the Abipones, and employ themselves exclu- 
sively in exaggerating the slaughter of the 
enemy. During the time that these songs are 
chaunted, a period of many hours, not one of 
the auditors dares utter a word, and though 
night itself persuades sleep, you will not see 
one of them even yawn. 

As all singers have the fault which Horace 
complains of in them, namely, that when they 
once begin, they will never leave off; the two 
chaunters are admonished to conclude their 
song, by women who stand around, separated 
from the men, and who signify to the vocal 
pair, after they have sung about a quarter of 




an hour, that it is time to desist, by repeated 
precussion of their lips, and by pronouncing 
the little words Kla leya, it is enough. With 
this admonition, they immediately comply, and 
conclude the magnificent commemoration of 
their mighty deeds with Gramackka akam: 
Such then we are. Another pair then succeeds 
to the former, and in this manner the singing is 
protracted till the morning. Then, indeed, the 
scene is changed, the drinking commences, and 
their dry and weary throats are refreshed with 
that American nectar made either of honey, or 
the alfaroba. The women, and the unmarried 
men are excluded from these drinking-parties, 
though the latter are allowed to drink mead in 
private, as the women to drink pure honey, 
. and eat the raw alfaroba. 

To seek honey in the v/oods for making this 
drink, is the business of the men, but the whole 
labour of preparing it falls upon the women, 
who have to knock down the alfarobas from the 
trees, to carrv them home on horseback, to 
pound them in mortars, to pour water on them, 
and to dress the hides which serve to hold the 
liquor. The method of their construction is 
this : the feet are cut off, the hide is made 
square ; its four sides are then raised to the 
height of two spans, so that it receives at the 
bottom any liquor that you may pour in, and 



holds it without spilling a drop. Honey, or 
the alfaroba steeped in water, obtains the desi- 
rable degree of acidity quicker, or slower, 
according to the state of the atmosphere, and 
ferments, in a certain way, without the addition 
of any thing else. The Abipones approach 
those vessels every now and then, and ascertain, 
by the smell, whether that honeyed beverage 
has attained its proper state. Layam ycham; 
It will soon ferment, they cry as they go away. 
Till at length some one comes, who, judging by 
his nose, declares that it has gained the neces- 
sary acidity. This being given out, they all 
flock to the appointed place. Those leathern 
vessels, full of foaming mead, are each brought 
by the hands of six or eight girls, who lay 
down their burden, and return home without 
speaking a word to the drinkers. Before the first 
vessel is quite exhausted, another is brought, 
to that is added a third, then a fourth, and so 
on. I did not in the least wonder to see the 
women so alert and industrious in performing 
these useful offices, because the more diligent 
they are, the higher character they obtain 
amongst their countrymen, and the greater 
favour do they gain from their husbands. It 
must be confessed, however, that the Abipones, 
when they sup and dine in private, drink 
nothing but water. I have known Abipones 



F F 



who abstained from fermented liquors alto- 
gether ; but these persons were contemned by 
the rest as cowardly, degenerate, and stupid ; 
and indeed, I observed that they who excelled 
the rest in birth, military glory, and authority, 
were generally the most given to drinking. You 
can scarce see a circle of drinkers, at which the 
chiefs of the Abipones do not attend and pre- 

For cups they use either the skulls of their 
slain enemies, or gourds, or horns. They are 
unacquainted with the European fashion of 
drinking healths. When any one suggests the 
idea of a warlike expedition, they cry La, now ; 
and snatching up their cups, express that they 
have ratified his proposal by a hearty draught. 
It is also remarkable, that, though extremely 
voracious at other times, they take scarce any 
food when they pass the day and night in 
drinking ; from which it is evident that honey 
and the alfaroba possess great nutritive quali- 
ties. For my part, I never could prevail upon 
myself to taste that nectar of the Abipones, 
having often observed them chew the alfaroba, 
or honeycomb with their teeth, put it out 
of their mouths, and keep it to mix with the 
future beverage; for they think that, being 
mixed with saliva, it will serve for a ferment, 
to make the rest of the mass obtain a grateful 



acid more quickly. On the Same account, the 
Indians and Paraguayrian Spaniards have their 
maize, which is intended for drink, chewed by 
old women ; they will not intrust this office to 
the younger ones, who, they say, abound in 
bad humours. Could any person, aware of this 
circumstance, though of no very delicate sto- 
mach, swallow the beverage without nausea ? 
Yet this filthy drink has more lovers amongst 
the Americans, than Helen had amongst the 

They always have many causes for celebra- 
ting a public drinking-party ; the most frequent 
are, the gaining of a victory, an impending 
fight, funeral rites, festivities on the birth of a 
Cacique's son, the shaving of widowers or 
widows, the changing of a name, the procla- 
mation of a lately appointed captain, the arrival 
of a guest of consideration, a wedding, and, 
what is most common, a council of war. If 
materials for preparing the liquor be at hand, 
occasion, and inclination for drinking, will never 
be wanting. As honey is always to be had, 
they are never, at any part of the year, in want 
of mead ; but as it is seldom to be got in suffi- 
cient quantities, for the number of partakers, 
parties of this kind are generally of short 
duration. From December to April, when the 
woods abound with the ripe alfaroba, is the 




chief season for drinking. During these months 
they drink without pause or intermission. 
They join the night to the day, with scarce 
any interval for brief meals, or sleep: before 
they have slept themselves sober they stag- 
ger back to the party of drinkers. During 
all that time you scarce ever find them in pos- 
session of their senses; to live, with them, 
is to drink, and you would say that the more 
they drank the more thirsty they grew. To 
show that they do not tremble at the sight 
of blood, and that they take pleasure in 
wounds, they emulously prick their breast 
and arms, and not unfrequently their tongue, 
with crocodiles' bones, and the sharpest thorns. 
Disputes too are frequent among them concern- 
ing pre-eminence in valour, which produce con- 
fused clamours, fighting, wounds, and slaughter. 
" In that skirmish you basely turned your back 
on the enemy," one perhaps will say to the other; 
who, not choosing to endure the reproach, replies 
" What? What do you say?" till from words 
they proceed to blows, to arrows, and to spears, 
unless other persons interfere. It often happens 
that a contention between two implicates and 
incites them all, so that snatching up arms, and 
taking the part, some of one, some of the other, 
they furiously rush to attack and slay one ano- 
ther. This is no uncommon occurrence in drink- 



ing-parties, and is sometimes carried on for 
many hours with much vociferation of the com- 
batants, and no less- effusion of blood. 

Intoxication affects the Abipones in various 
ways. Some laugh violently, merrier than hila- 
rity itself; others seem oppressed with melan- 
choly ; others, inflated with the remembrance of 
their mighty deeds, grow more threatening and 
boastful than the Thraso of Terence, or the 
Miles Gloriosus of Plautus. I knew a man, who, 
whenever he was drunk, threatened to kill his 
little son, and as he lay stretched upon the 
ground, spoke in such loud and angry tones to 
his wife, that he was heard throughout the 
whole neighbourhood. There was one man, 
who, when he was drunk, always requested to 
be baptized, continually exclaiming, " Make 
haste, Father, and wash my head!" though, 
when sober, he never thought anything about 
baptism. An Abipon, of no reputation amongst 
his countrymen, entered our house furnished 
with a bow and arrows, and demanded of me, in 
a threatening tone, whether I did not think him 
a captain, that is, a man distinguished for great 
actions; alarmed at the fierce countenance of 
the interrogator, and at the bundle of arrows 
which he bore, I made him a fine panegyric by 
way of reply, though he was a man universally 

F F 3 



despised for his cowardice. An old man in the 
town of St. Ferdinand, inglorious alike in birth 
and actions, on being called by his drinking as- 
sociates, Lanaraik, plebeian, vainly endeavoured 
with arms, and absurd clamours, to avenge the 
insult; for his wife, a sturdy old woman, 
always watched over her infuriated husband, 
that he might not fall by the fists or weapons of 
his companions. On this occasion she caught 
hold of him by the legs, or girdle, dragged him 
through the street, and when got home, vainly 
exhorted him to sleep and silence ; for he, ever 
recurring to the flouts of his comrades, could 
take no rest, constantly ejaculating with a 
hoarse voice, Ta yeegam! Aym Lanaraik\ Ta 
yeegaml La rihh lake! "What! I a plebeian? I 
ignoble? I demand vengeance." Enraged by, 
these reflections, he endeavours again and 
again to raise himself on his feet, and snatch up 
a spear, when his angry wife as often knocks 
him down upon the floor. This sport continued 
for many hours, to the incredible annoyance of 
all that dw^elt in the neighbourhood. Few could 
repress indignation, none laughter. Almost all 
the women have the same task when they la- 
bour to disarm their husbands, and take them 
out of the hands of their drunken comrades. 
The whole Abiponian nation would come to de- 
struction, if the women and youths attended 



these drinking-parties, as well as the married 


You will sooner eradicate from the minds of 
the Americans any vice belonging to them, than 
this wicked and pernicious intemperance in 
drinking. You will sooner persuade them to 
live content with one wife, to abstain from 
slaughter and rapine, to scorn their ancient su- 
perstitions, or to employ themselves in agricul- 
ture and building houses, notwithstanding their 
aversion to labour. To abolish the custom of 
drinking-parties is indeed a most arduous work, 
a labour of many years, and a business to per- 
fect which no eloquence or industry of those 
whose care and wish it was to convert the sa- 
vage nations to Christianity, and conform them 
to the divine laws, was ever equal. At length, 
however, we have had the satisfaction of be- 
holding this wicked custom of drinking yield to 
our unwearied toils, and almost all the savages 
submit to the law of God. 

F F 4 





Even amongst savage nations, virtue has its re- 
ward. Though almost ignorant that they are 
men, they delight in honourable titles. The 
Abipones do not account that the best nobility 
which is inherited as a patrimony, but that 
which is obtained by their own merits. Amongst 
them, as no one is distinguished by his father's 
name, in like manner no one is ennobled by the 
famous deeds of his father, grandfather, or great 
grandfather. The nobility of valour and pro- 
bity, not that of birth, is what they prize and 
honour. By a kind of natural propensity they 
respect the sons and grandsons of their Caciques 
and Captains; yet if they be stupid, cowardly, 
of unpleasant manners, or a foolish understand- 
ing, they make them of no account, and never 
prefer them to the government of the horde, or ' 
of military expeditions. They choose for rulers 
and leaders others of the common people, whom 
they know to be active, sagacious, brave, and 
modest. Whoever has given proofs of warlike 



valour is initiated into warlike honours with ce- 
remonies which I shall presently describe. 

The names of the Abipones who are not dis- 
tinguished by military rank, end in various let- 
ters ; but when, on account of their services in 
war, they are admitted into the rank of the nor 
bles, they drop the name which they bore in 
youth, and receive another which always termi- 
nates in the syllable In. They who are solemnly 
naugurated, according to the custom of their 
ancestors, are called Hocheri, and have a dialect 
of their own; for though they use the common 
words, yet, by insertion and addition of various 
syllables, they transform and obscure them in 
such a manner that they can hardly be under- 
stood. I shall now briefly describe the rites by 
which they are promoted to this dignity. When, 
by the arbitration of the rest, such an honour 
has been decreed to any one, they make a pre- 
vious trial of his fortitude, by an experiment 
common to all: A black bead being placed 
upon his tongue, he is ordered to sit down at 
home for three days, and during that time to 
abstain from speaking, eating, and drinking. 
This is indeed a harsh law, but it appears mild 
in comparison with the torments endured by 
certain Indians at the river Orinoco, when can- 
didates for military honours. They are laid on 
a hurdle, beneath which are placed burning 




coals, and, that the heat and smoke may be the 
more intolerable, the poor wretches are com- 
pletely overwhelmed with palm leaves. They 
anoint the whole of the body of others with 
honey, tie them to a tree, and expose them to 
the stings of bees, wasps, drones, and hornets. 
But let me now return to the Abipon who is 
fasting and keeping silence at home. On the 
evening preceding this military function all the 
women flock to the threshold of his tent. Pulling 
off their clothes from the shoulder to the mid- 
dle, and dishevelling their hair, they stand in a 
long row, and with confused shouts, accompa- 
nied with the sound of gourds, and with the 
continual agitation of their arms and legs, lament 
for the ancestors of him, who is, next day, to be 
adorned with a military dignity. These lamen- 
tations continue till it is dark. As soon as 
morning dawns, our candidate, elegantly dressed 
in the fashion of his nation, and holding a spear 
in his hand, leaps upon a horse laden with fea- 
thers, small bells, and trappings, and gallops 
northward, followed by a great troop of Abi- 
pones. Presently, returning with equal speed, 
he approaches the tent, where sits an old female 
juggler, the priestess of the ceremonies, who is 
afterwards to inaugurate the candidate with 
solemn rites. Some woman of noble birth offi- 
ciously holds his spear and the bridles of his 



horse, while he dismounts, the rest of the ma- 
trons continuing to strike their lips, and ap- 
plaud; when the candidate listens to a short 
address from the old woman seated on a hide, 
with as much veneration as if it was an oracle 
from a Delphic tripod. Then mounting fresh 
horses, he rides out in the same manner as be- 
fore, first to the South, then to the East, and 
then to the West, and after each journey 
alights at the same tent, where that Pythian, 
like a female Apollo, pours forth her eloquence. 
The four excursions being performed, and the 
horses dismissed, they all betake themselves to 
that sacred tent, to witness the usual ceremony 
of the inauguration. This ceremony consists of 
three things : first the hair of the candidate is 
shaven by an old woman, so that from the fore- 
head to the back part of the head she leaves a 
baldness or streak, three inches wide, which 
they call Nalemra. The business of the hair 
being finished, the old woman pronounces a 
, panegyric, setting forth the noble actions of the 
candidate, his warlike disposition, knowledge 
of arms and horses, intrepidity in difficulties, 
the enemies that he has slaughtered, the spoils 
that he has taken, the military fame of his an- 
cestors, and so on ; in order that he may ap- 
pear, on many accounts, worthy to be declared 




a captain and a noble warrior, and to enjoy the 
rights and privileges of the Hocheri. His new 
name is immediately promulgated, and festively 
pronounced by a band of women striking their 
lips with their hands. The male spectators do 
not like dry ceremonies to be protracted to a 
great length, but joyfully fly to skins full of 
honeyed liquor, and conclude the business with 
a famous drinking-match. 

It is remarkable that many of the women ar- 
rive at this degree of honour, and nobility, en- 
joy the privileges of the Hocheri, and use their 
dialect. The names of these females end in En, 
as those of the men in In. What circumstances 
entitle women of low birth to this degree of ho- 
nour, I do not know, but it appears to me most 
probable that the merits of their parents, hus- 
bands, or brothers, not age, or beauty, bestow 
this prerogative upon females. I have often 
heard very young women conversing in the 
language of the nobles, and matrons remark- 
able for years and wrinkles speaking the vul- 
gar tongue. 

The Abipones think it a sin to utter their 
own name. When either of them knocked by 
night at my door, though I asked him a 
hundred times, " Who are you ?" he would 
answer nothing but, " It is I." Unknown per- 



sons, when I enquired their name, would jog 
their neighbour with their elbow that he 
might answer for them. It is also reckoned a 
crime to utter the name of a person lately 
dead. If any one in his cups forgets the law, 
and utters the name of the deceased, he will 
give occasion to a bloody quarrel. Many wo- 
men have no name at all. When I was making 
out a list of the inhabitants of a town, I used to 
call upon all the men who were best acquainted 
with their hordesmen to give me information 
on the subject, and when interrogated respect- 
ing women, they used often to say : '' This wo- 
man has no name." 

Moreover, the Abipones change their names 

as Europeans do their clothes. The reasons of 

this alteration are either some famous action, or 

the death of a father, son, wife, &c. when all 

the relations, to signify their grief, change their 

old name for a new one. I have known persons, 

who, in process of time, changed their names six 

or more times. Others are named from some 

quality of mind or body ; as Kauirln, lascivious, 

Oahe7^kaikm, mendacious. Children have names 

quite different from their parents. Amongst the 

Christian Guaranies, sons generally took the 

names of their fathers, and daughters of their 

mothers. In the third part of this history, 

which is yet to come, we shall relate the 



slaughters committed, and undergone by the 
Abipones, the progress and vicissitudes of the 
c^fonies which we founded for them, and the 
advantages which the Spaniards derived from 
those colonies. 


London : Printed by C. Rowortli, 
Bell-yard, TeniDle-hav.